Common myths and misconceptions about cancer clinical trials

We’ll aim to dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions about clinical trials to give you a clearer understanding of what to expect when participating in one. 

“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. That’s why it’s good for you to search for relevant cancer clinical trials available in Victoria and discuss with your doctor whether one would be suitable for you.

Pharmacist at a lab

“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.  

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

Cancer 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 cancer clinical trial doesn't always mean you will be better off than before you went on it, however it can provide you with an alternative treatment to what is currently available to the general public.

Patient at a Hospital

“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 of care treatment plus something else - either a placebo or an experimental 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 in Victoria have an active clinical research program. However, you may need to travel for some or all of the trial activity that is best suited to your care if this is not available locally.

Doctor at hospital

“Clinical trials are a ‘last resort’ option for cancer treatment

Optimal cancer care recommends that people are given the opportunity to participate in cancer research, including clinical trials, throughout their cancer experience. This is because researchers are looking to improve each step of this journey, and people may benefit from taking part regardless of whether they have had prior treatment or not. There may be a clinical trial suitable for you no matter where you are in your cancer experience.

Victorian Cancer Registry Victorian Government

The Victorian Cancer Trials Link is supported by the Victorian Government through the Victorian Cancer Agency.


Cancer Council Victoria would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work. We would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.