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The Benefits and Risks to Consider in Clinical Trials

May 18, 2018

Joining a clinical trial is an important choice that can have both short- and long-term impact on a patient. When deciding whether to participate in a clinical trial, there are a number of factors to weigh in the decision. Dr. Jason Melear of Texas Oncology–Austin Midtown explains the important benefits and potential risks for patients to consider.


  • Access to innovative treatment. Clinical trials provide patients access to new and effective therapies and combinations, including breakthroughs in immunotherapy. It’s a common misconception that clinical trials are only for patients who have not had success with other treatments. While these patients make up a large percentage of clinical trial participants, trials are also available for cancer patients who have just been diagnosed. 
  • Personalized therapy. Clinical trial patients receive more personalized and targeted therapies. In some cases, the treatment is specific to their type of cancer down to the molecular level.  
  • Quality of life. Clinical trials may have fewer side effects than other traditional cancer treatments, making it easier for patients to manage their daily lives. 
  • Close to home. Clinical trials in Texas are available at both major academic institutions and in dozens of other locations through Texas Oncology’s community-based approach. This provides patients access to a wide range of innovative trials close to home. 


While there are a number of benefits to participating in a clinical trial, patients should also consider the following risks.  

  • Uncertain outcomes. Clinical trials are experimental, so it is possible that the treatment won’t be effective or that the cancer progresses during the research study. 
  • Side effects. Physicians monitor clinical trial patients carefully to determine a treatment’s effectiveness. Even so, it is possible that clinical trial patients may experience unintended side effects. 
  • Timing. Clinical trials sometimes involve additional doctor visits and strict testing schedules to monitor treatment. The additional time commitment might be inconvenient for some patients. 

Clinical trials are voluntary. Deciding to join – or exit – a trial is a very important medical choice and should not be made lightly. That’s why it’s important to discuss with your physician the treatment options available to you and their likely impact on your disease and quality of life. Patients and their loved ones always should have confidence that they are making clear and informed decisions about their treatment, including whether to participate in a clinical trial. 

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.