LiveSmart: Should You Participate in a Clinical Trial?

[This piece was written by Bernadette DiCocco and Donna Julian, research associates with St. Peter’s Hospital Cancer Care Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners.]

Almost everyone knows someone who has been asked to participate, or has participated, in a clinical trial. But what exactly is a clinical trial, and what are the benefits and risks in participating?

Clinical trials are carefully controlled studies in which patients volunteer to participate in the testing of new drugs, new combinations of drugs, or procedures to prevent, detect, diagnose, or treat disease. These research studies are necessary in the development of promising new treatments for serious diseases like cancer.

The benefits of participating in a clinical trial are many. By participating, a patient:

  • Plays an active role in his or her own health care.
  • Gains access to new research treatments before they are widely available.
  • Obtains expert medical care at leading health care facilities during the trial.
  • Helps others by contributing to scientists’ medical research.

As with all medications, there are known risks and those that are unknown. Before agreeing to participate in a clinical trial, consider:

  • Side effects or outcomes from the testing that are unpleasant. The side effects could be short-term or long-term, depending on a patient’s reaction to the treatment.
  • The treatment could have no positive effect.
  • The time and testing represents a serious commitment on the patient’s part, often when they are feeling unwell.

A person considering taking part in a clinical trial should first discuss the possibility with his or her physician to determine whether they qualify. All clinical trials have guidelines about who can participate. These criteria are used to identify appropriate participants and keep them safe. The criteria also helps ensure that researchers will be able to answer the questions they plan to study.

At St. Peter’s Hospital Cancer Care Center, our goal is to actively contribute to St. Peter’s mission to provide comprehensive health services through the development and implementation of a solid, current, and innovative clinical research department, in order to offer our patients the best possible treatment options.

St. Peter’s provides the most advanced diagnostic testing, medical oncology, radiation therapy, and multiple surgical specialties. Our expert team of physicians, surgeons, nurses, therapists, physicists, dosimetrists, administrators and support staff work together every day to meet the needs of our patients and their families.

For information on clinical trials currently available at St. Peter’s Hospital Cancer Care Center, call (518) 525-6739 or visit For a listing of currently available oncology clinical trials nationwide, visit:

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