Safety of Clinical Trials

Last Modified: May 8, 2012


My doctor has asked me to consider a clinical trial as my treatment. Are these trials safe? Could it really be better than the treatment that most people get for pancreatic cancer?


Christina Bach, Oncology Social Worker at Penn Medicine responds:

Participating in clinical trial is a personal decision but also an opportunity to participate in the future of cancer treatment in the present!

All clinical trials must be approved by the institutional review board (IRB) to be certain that they are as free of risk for the participants as possible.

With cancer clinical trials you will always receive at least the standard of care (the established standard treatment for your type of cancer) +/- an experimental drug or dose of a drug to see if it impacts the efficacy of that standard of care.

Clinical trials are safe and well monitored by research specialists at cancer treatment sites. You can learn more about available clinical trials through OncoLink's Clinical Trials Marching Service at

Very few patients actually participate in clinical trials and this participation is SO KEY to understanding treatments, how they work and as well as how to improve survival rates. If you can participate, I highly encourage you to do so.

Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist at Penn Medicine adds,

When patients are enrolled on clinical trials, there are many safeguarding mechanisms in place to keep people safe. Our hope is that we can improve upon the standard of care and offer you the opportunity for treatments not conventionally available although there is no guarantee within the context of a clinical trial that it is in fact better. All of our standard available therapies went through this rigorous trials process also. If a patient is fit enough, we always try to offer them the opportunity to enroll in a clinical trial. It is, however, a personal choice and not the right fit for everyone and we will take excellent care of you whether or not you are enrolled in a trial. You can also sign up for a trial and decide it is not for you so it is not a binding contract, just an opportunity.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Pancreatic Cancer Webchat.

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