Participating in a Clinical Trial

Before a cancer patient enrolls in a clinical trial, both the patient and the physician conducting the trial must determine if the match is right. The investigator will decide whether the patient has the right characteristics for the study. The patient must find out all of the details about the treatment offered in the trial and then decide whether he or she wants to participate. In any clinical trial, the patient's participation is always voluntary.

It is the policy of the University of Maryland to respect and protect the rights and welfare of all individuals. We take very seriously the protection of all human subjects enrolled in clinical trials. The university's Institutional Review Board is a key component for ensuring that the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected.


When selecting patients for a clinical trial, the study investigators must carefully choose patients who are alike in key ways and who do not have health characteristics that would put them at increased risk in the study or that would confuse the study's results. Patients must have the exact condition targeted by the new therapy so that the investigators can measure the treatment's effectiveness. The written plan or protocol for each clinical trial must include a list of criteria that make patients eligible or ineligible for inclusion in the study. These criteria usually include aspects of a patient's disease and treatment history, their current condition, their prognosis (likelihood of recovery), and their age.

Deciding to Enroll

Participating in a trial may be one of a number of treatment options available to some cancer patients. For others it may be the best option when their cancer has not responded to other treatments. In either case, patients who take part in clinical trials may be the first to benefit from the discovery of successful new cancer treatments.

Participation in a clinical trial also contributes to the study and understanding of cancer and its treatment. Clinical trials are an essential part of medical discoveries and have resulted in new options for treating many of today's most common cancers. They help to bring scientists closer to finding a cure for cancer and to bring new hope to patients who are fighting cancer.

The decision to enroll in a trial is not always easy, however. There is always a degree of uncertainty involved in testing a new drug or therapy, and participating in a trial requires that you tolerate that uncertainty. If you are considering a clinical trial, you will want to discuss all of the advantages and possible drawbacks with your doctor and the people close to you.

What to Expect

As a participant in a clinical trial, you can and should have certain expectations about your care and treatment. You can expect that:

  1. Your participation is voluntary. You may leave the study at any time and for any reason. If you leave the study, you can choose another form of treatment.
  2. You will receive high-quality cancer care, whether you are given the new treatment being tested or the best standard treatment.
  3. Your response to the treatment will be closely monitored by doctors and nurses, and your health will be their foremost priority.
  4. If the new treatment harms you in any way, it will be stopped and you will be able to return to the care of your own doctor.
  5. You will be given all of the information about the study, including treatment details, risks, and benefits, before you decide to take part.

Find a Clinical Trial

To find a clinical trial, search our clinical trials database by study number, investigator or by topic (keyword).

More Information

If you have questions about clinical trials at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, please call us at 1-800-888-8823.

If you need more information about how and where clinical trials are conducted, we recommend visiting Clinical Trials on the National Cancer Institute website.