Patients have many questions about clinical trials. This section addresses some of the most common questions.

What does randomization in a clinical trial mean?

Randomization is a term meaning that when someone is in a clinical trial, there is an equal likelihood that they will be given the experimental or the standard treatment. Besides randomization, a clinical trial is usually blinded, meaning that neither the participant nor the doctor treating you knows who is getting which treatment so the results of the trial are unbiased. Drugs are given numbers and sham surgeries can be performed, but coordinators of the trial know who is getting what to ultimately be able to analyze the data.

When should I consider participating in a clinical trial?

Although many people think participating in a trial when all treatment options have failed, clinicians recommend finding out about clinical trials as early as possible in treatment to have a better understanding of all your treatment choices.

Do I need to be near a major medical center to participate in a clinical trial?

No. A major institution may be a coordinator of a clinical trial but under its auspices may have local physicians and community hospitals working with patients, too.

May I leave a clinical trial?

A participant may leave a trial at any time, but should inform the research team about doing so and why.

Can I participate in a clinical trial that does not study a new treatment?

Clinical trials often test treatments, but they also study new diagnostics, screening methods, prevention measures and quality of life improvements, such as ways to reduce side effects of treatment.

What if I am ineligible for a clinical trial? What other options are available?

Under certain circumstances someone might be able to obtain experimental treatments, also called investigational new drugs, if they cannot participate in a clinical trial. The Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers of investigational new drugs to provide the agents to someone with a serious disease who might benefit from the treatment under what is called “expanded access.” Also, someone might be ineligible for one trial, but be eligible for another one.

Next: Questions to Ask your Physician

Also read, Clinical Trials Misconceptions.