Clinical Trials Matter.

The Importance and Challenges of Clinical Trial Participation, by Heather Kehn, RN, MPH

Importance of Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are the key to making progress against cancer.  As a result of past clinical trials, people today are living longer lives from newly discovered cancer treatments that are the results of past clinical trials. Clinical trials also help find new ways to prevent cancer and improve the quality of life for people during and after treatment. When patients and their families take part in a trial, they add to the knowledge about cancer and help improve cancer care for future patients.1

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines state the best management for any patient with cancer is in a clinical trial.  The NCCN goes on to explain that many cancer tests and treatments widely used today, exist because of clinical trials. However, clinical trials can only be done if people have access to the research studies and are willing to join as a particpant.2

Challenges of Clinical Trials

Misconceptions can be a common challenge when it comes to enrolling patients onto a clinical trial.  A common misconception is that all clinical trials involve a placebo.  Actually, placebos are almost never used alone in cancer treatment trials. In some cases, a study may compare standard treatment plus a new treatment, to standard treatment plus a placebo.  Patients will be told if the study uses a placebo during the informed consent process.3

Also, patients may think that there are only cancer treatment clinical trials.  When really, there are many clinical trials looking at how to help patients control or prevent the symptoms of their cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment.4

Institutional barriers also exist.  For instance, 55% of patients seeking cancer care will not have a clinical trial available for their condition at the location where they are receiving care.  Another 17% will not meet the study’s eligibility requirements, and many eligible patients will not be asked by their provider to enroll.5

Taking Action, Together

There is a one-stop-shop to help patients, their family and the community understand clinical trial options and the process of enrolling onto a clinical trial.  The National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed AccrualNet™ to provide a growing, searchable database of hundreds of journal articles with easy-to-read summaries, helpful tools, sample materials, and training resources that can also be used by clinic and research staff.

A Breath of Hope is proud of its strategic partnerships in the lung cancer field and would like to thank Heath Kehn for this contribution to our Clinical Trial Blog Series.

Heather Kehn is a Program Manager with Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium (MMCORC).  To learn more, visit

Sources: 1. Clinical Trials Information. National Cancer Institute.  Accessed April 20, 2019 at
  1. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Accessed on April 11, 2019 at 3. Taking Part in Cancer Treatment Research Studies. National Cancer Institute. 2011. 4. Looking for Answers Through Cancer Research Know Your Options. Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium (MMCORC). 2015. 5. Overcoming Barriers to Patient Enrollment in Therapeutic Clinical Trials for Cancer. Cancer Action Network, American Cancer Society. 2018.