Clinical trials are an important way to improve treatment for people with cancer. While most are continuing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the period of time that clinical trials are available and recruiting may change quickly. If you would like to get involved in a clinical trial, speak to your treatment team or the health service where the clinical trial is being undertaken, to confirm it is open and appropriate for you. For cancer information and support, call Cancer Council's experienced cancer nurses on 13 11 20 Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm.

Common myths about trials

Busting some of the common myths about clinical trials.

“If there was a clinical trial that could help me, my doctor would tell me about it.”

Your doctor might not know about all of the clinical trials that are available and of benefit to you. Using the Victorian Cancer Trials (VCTL) website, you, as a patient, carer, family member or friend of someone diagnosed with cancer, can search for relevant clinical trials available in Victoria. If you are thinking about participating on a clinical trial and have additional questions, you should still consult with your doctor before making any decisions and check if this is the right option for you.

“If I participate in a clinical trial, I will be treated like a guinea pig.”

There are strict guidelines in place to ensure that clinical trial participants will be treated fairly and ethically, the same as if you were not on a trial. Before a test treatment is given to people who volunteer on clinical trials, it undergoes extensive screening, which can take many years to complete. Every clinical trial also has an informed consent process, which will help you understand your rights as a participant on a clinical trial, including your right to leave the trial at any time if you no longer want to participate.

“If I get allocated to the group that receives standard care, I am not on the trial and not receiving the best treatment.”

If you are allocated to the group that receives standard care, as opposed to an experimental treatment, you are still classified as being on a clinical trial. Your group is being used as a comparison to the new treatment and will allow researchers to identify the most effective method for treating your disease. Just because you are not receiving the new treatment, doesn’t mean you are not receiving the best available care.

"There's no point taking part in a trial as I won't benefit."

Clinical trials have a number of advantages, as they provide access to programs, medicines and treatments that aren't widely available to the general population. Joining a study doesn't always mean you will be better off than before or compared to other people in a similar situation. Either way you'll be informed of all possible risks and benefits before making a decision.

"Clinical trials are risky."

Researchers must follow strict guidelines to ensure the treatments on clinical trials are as safe as possible for everyone involved. All clinical trials and treatments must be approved by specially appointed research and ethics committees, and undergo extensive screening before being tested on human participants.

"If I take part in a trial, I won't get the best treatment available."

Participants will receive at least the same quality of care you would expect if you weren't on a trial. Generally, trial participants receive standard care, the best available treatment, or a new treatment that doctors believe could be better than the standard.

"Clinical trials are only available at hospitals in capital cities."

Many rural and regional hospitals have an active clinical research program. Talk to your treating team to get involved

“If I participate in a clinical trial I might get a placebo or a ‘sugar pill’ instead of real treatment.”

A placebo drug will not be given to people who are being treated for cancer. All clinical trial participants will be given the best available treatment, known as standard care.