How to Join a Clinical Trial

Use these steps as a guide to finding and enrolling in a cancer clinical trial.

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Step 1. Look for options.

Start your search for a cancer clinical trial in your doctor’s office. Talk to your doctor about any trials that he or she knows about that might be right for your cancer type and stage.

You can also search for trials online. The following sites allow you to look for trials by cancer type, study location, type of trial, and other factors:

  • Our website lists clinical trials at MSK that are actively enrolling participants.
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) database includes studies in the United States and around the world. Contact the Cancer Information Service (CIS) if you need help.
  • TrialCheck® is a searchable database from the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups containing more than 4,000 clinical trials.
  • is a searchable database of U.S. trials maintained by the National Institutes of Health.
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Step 2. Review eligibility criteria.

Not every clinical trial will be right for you. Clinical trials have guidelines, called eligibility criteria, that tell doctors who can participate. These criteria are stated in the trial listings and include things like sex, age, type of cancer, and how advanced the cancer is.

If you need help understanding, talk to your doctor or contact the study organizers. If you are interested in an MSK clinical trial, you can also call our Patient Access Service at 800-525-2225.

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Step 3. Contact the study organizers.

After finding a trial and determining your eligibility, contact the study’s organizers using the contact information on the trial listing. If the trial’s organizers feel that you meet their criteria, they will set up an appointment to meet you and may ask you to undergo a physical exam or undergo other eligibility tests. If you are interested in an MSK clinical trial, you can also call our Patient Access Service at 800-525-2225.

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Step 4. Review the study description.

Clinical trials follow a careful a plan of action, called a protocol, that describes exactly what the researchers will do as part of the study. The plan is designed to protect your health and make sure the researchers get the information they need. Review the description with your doctor and prepare questions for the study organizers about what to expect if you decide to participate.

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Step 5. Learn about informed consent.

Informed consent is the process of learning about a clinical trial before you decide to take part. The research team running the trial will explain the trial’s purpose, how long it will take, what will happen, all potential risks and benefits, and information on the privacy of your medical records.

If you want to participate, you will sign a consent form that details all of the information that has been discussed with the research team. You will be able to take that form home and refer to it at any time. Even though you have signed the consent form, you still have the right to leave the study at any time and for any reason.

Informed consent continues throughout the trial. This will give the research team an opportunity to update you on the progress of the trial as well as any side effects or other risks that have been identified. 

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