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.

Did you know?

Things you might not know about clinical trials, but should consider.

Trials require follow up

Once patients have finished the active treatment part of a clinical trial, patients are often monitored for a defined period of time. Trials vary in how often they monitor patients, what the monitoring is and for how long they monitor patients after the active treatment part of the trial is finished.  

Different drugs for different cancers

It’s important to remember that different types of cancers are treated using different drugs. Trials restrict which patients they accept based on cancer type because of patient safety and because the new drug is not thought to be effective at treating other cancer types.

If your cancer is metastatic, it isn’t necessarily a different cancer type

Sometimes cancers can break away from where they originated and form new cancers in other areas of the body. These are called secondary cancers or metastatic cancer.  When you are looking for clinical trials you should search for the cancer type of where your primary cancer was.   For example if you first had cancer in your lung and you now have metastatic or secondary cancer of the liver, you should still search for lung cancer when looking for a clinical trial.

Patient and doctor talking graphic The best person to speak to about clinical trials is your doctor!


Eligibility criteria is important

Inclusion and exclusion criteria (eligibility criteria) for clinical trials exist to help the researchers identify that the results of the trial were due to the treatment being tested and not some other factor. They also help protect the safety of the people participating in the trail. The criteria are unique to each trial and often very long and complex. Your doctor is the best person to help you decide whether or not you meet the eligibility criteria for a particular clinical trial.


Women of child-bearing age and ability are often requested to utilise effective means of contraception. Men are also often required to utilise contraception in clinical trials.

Psychiatric history

Your past mental health and psychiatric history may impact on your ability to participate in a cancer clinical trial. This can be due to the legal requirements of a clinical trial, which requires you to provide informed consent; it is also about protecting the patient’s safety in a trial.

Minimum time periods since surgery, radiotherapy and certain drugs

Past treatments may impact your ability to join particular cancer clinical trials. The inclusion and exclusion criteria will be very specific about which types of surgery, radiotherapy or drug treatment you may have had and the time that needs to have passed since you have had these treatments. 


Some allergies may exclude you from participating in some clinical trials. This is to ensure the safety of all patients participating in the clinical trial.  If you have allergies of any kind, you should speak with you doctor.

Genetic testing

Some clinical trials will require you to undergo genetic testing. You should discuss what this means with your doctor and how this might impact you and your family.

Biospecimens and biospsy availability

Some clinical trials will want to use a sample of your cancer for scientific testing. This is so the researcher can understand your cancer better. They may ask to access a sample that has already been taken through a procedure (e.g. biopsy, blood test, FNA etc.) or request that you undergo a new one.

Ability to read, write and understand English

Many clinical trials will have a requirement that you can read, write and understand English before joining a trial. This is often due to clinical trial practicalities including the legal requirements and resources available to clinical trial staff for translation services.  It also helps protect the safety of the trial participants, allowing trial staff and patients to communicate clearly.