Fact or Fiction? Dispelling Myths about Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are vital to progressing cancer care. They can lead to the discovery of new and better treatments, enhanced ways to prevent side effects and can improve outcomes. Participation in clinical trials can help lead to these breakthroughs. However, many myths about clinical trials have led to poor participation rates across the country. Here are some common misconceptions about clinical trials to ensure you know the truth!


MYTH: Patients are treated like guinea pigs

TRUTH: Clinical trial participants are treated like patients. Every individual who enrolls in a clinical trial receives careful medical attention and are closely observed. Before an investigational drug can be given to people who volunteer to participate in clinical trials, scientists must complete a rigorous screening and preclinical testing process. Patients are fully informed of the risks and benefits of each clinical trial before they begin and are treated with respect and dignity. Every patient under our care is evaluated to determine if they are eligible for a clinical trial.

MYTH: Clinical trials are dangerous because they use new practices and medicines

TRUTH: Keeping patients safe when they volunteer to participate in a clinical trial is a top priority for everyone involved in the trial. During the study, researchers must inform patients of any new risks, benefits or side effects they discover. By taking part in a Phase III clinical trial, a patient can try a new treatment that is otherwise unavailable. If the treatment is better than standard therapy, as a clinical trial participant, the patient may be among the first to benefit from it.

MYTH: Patients could get a placebo

TRUTH: A placebo, which does not contain an active ingredient, is very rarely used in cancer clinical trials if it means putting people at risk by denying them effective therapy. The only case where this would happen is when there is no other treatment available. However, this would be clearly communicated to the patient before the trial would even begin. A patient would never be in a study and not know that it included a placebo.

MYTH: Clinical trials are last ditch efforts

TRUTH: Some clinical trials are reserved for cancer patients who have exhausted all the treatment options for their disease, but trials are open to patients in many other situations as well. There are clinical trials that look at methods to prevent cancer in people at high risk. Some trials focus on ways to detect and diagnose cancer. Other trials focus on preventing recurrence in patients whose cancer is in remission while some investigate treatment of patients with advanced cancer or on the quality of life.

MYTH: Once a patient enrolls, they are locked into the trial

TRUTH: A patient can opt out of a clinical trial for any reason at any time. The quality of care they receive at the Cancer Center will not be affected by their decision to participate in or withdraw from a trial. If someone decides to stop, their medical team may ask to continue monitoring them for a period of time to assess any long-term effects of the treatment received in the trial.

MYTH: Only academic institutions or cancer centers located in large cities offer clinical trials

TRUTH: Louisiana and Gulf South residents have more options to seek advanced cancer treatment, thanks to a $13.6 million National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) award. Click here to learn how Mary Bird Perkins, along with other partners, are working in partnership with LSU Health New Orleans to focus on conducting multi-site cancer clinical trials and cancer care delivery research studies in many Louisiana communities.


Click here to see which clinical trials are offered at the Cancer Center. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, please contact the Clinical Research office at (225) 215-1353, or by email at clinicalresearch@marybird.com.