Conducting clinical trials is critical to the development of new anticancer drugs. These trials are required for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drugs or indications. Clinical trials also afford patients access to experimental drugs, which could provide a benefit that the patient might not otherwise experience with currently approved agents.

Clinical trials, however, have very strict enrollment criteria, requiring certain patient- and disease-related characteristics to be present or not present for prospective participants to be eligible for enrollment. Participation may also be restricted by a patient’s geographic location if he or she is not in the immediate proximity of the institution at which the study is being conducted.

The desire for clinical trial enrollment should be discussed with an oncology provider.1 In many cases, the provider may initiate a conversation about the possibility of a clinical trial. Some providers, however, may not be aware of the availability of certain clinical trials or may not discuss the option with their patients. In such cases, patients may choose to seek out clinical trials on their own. Multiple organizations provide search functions or matching services to help with this endeavor.

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Cancer and Treatment Characteristics

Prior to starting a search for a clinical trial, patients should collect information about their specific malignancy, including histology information, staging, whether metastases are present and their location, any molecular or biomarker testing results, and details about any prior treatments. Other patient-specific characteristics such as age, smoking status, performance status, and health history are important to disclose. This information can help determine whether the patient meets the criteria for inclusion.