Common Concerns About Clinical Trials

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Pancreatic cancer patients who participate in clinical research have better outcomes. Every treatment available today was approved through a clinical trial. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision.

There can be many things to consider when deciding whether or not to enroll in a clinical trial. If your question isn’t answered below, our PanCAN Patient Services Case Managers are here to help. Please contact a Case Manager if you have any additional questions.

How may placebos be used in clinical trials?

In cancer treatment clinical trials, placebos (“sugar-pills” or inactive medication) are never used in place of the best-known standard treatment. All patients on clinical trials will receive either the experimental treatment or the best-known standard treatment.

In some randomized clinical trials, a placebo may be added to the standard treatment for comparison reasons. In this case, participants are divided into two groups – the control group and the new treatment group. The control group would receive the standard treatment plus a placebo (this is the same thing as receiving only the standard treatment), and the experimental group would receive the standard treatment plus the new drug.

What about experimental drug treatment side effects?

The study doctor or nurse will fully explain the anticipated side effects that patients may experience due to the experimental drug. It is important to remember that all cancer treatments, including the standard treatment, may cause side effects. The degree to which a patient experiences side effects can range from mild to severe. However, side effects can often be managed successfully with the help of the healthcare team.

In a clinical trial, the doctor or nurse will closely monitor for side effects and help the patient manage his or her symptoms. Therefore, it is very important to discuss any and all side effects that may occur during treatment with the healthcare team.

What are the costs of clinical trials?

There are two types of financial costs that participants may encounter when participating in a clinical trial: research costs and routine medical care costs.

Research costs include anything specifically performed for the purpose of the trial. This may include the treatment or procedure being studied and required tests. In most cases, these costs are covered by the clinical trial sponsor. The trials may be funded, or sponsored, through public institutions such as the National Cancer Institute, or privately through pharmaceutical companies, foundations or academic medical centers.

Routine medical care costs include services and procedures that participants would typically receive whether or not they participate in a trial. Routine medical care may include diagnostic procedures, office visits, standard treatment and hospital admissions. The coverage for these costs varies according to state, person and health plan. Typically, the patient and/or his/her insurance plan is responsible for these costs. Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all self-funded and fully insured health plans to provide coverage for routine medical costs for individuals who participate in an approved clinical trial. The requirement does not apply to grandfathered plans. Grandfathered plans are health plans that were in place when ACA was signed into law.

Financial costs should be discussed with the clinical trial coordinator and the patient’s insurance company before enrolling in a pancreatic cancer clinical trial. PanCAN Patient Services has listings of financial, insurance and transportation resources, which may help offset additional costs. To access these resources, contact PanCAN Patient Services.

Our PanCAN Patient Services Case Managers are here to help. For questions, additional information or a personalized clinical trials search, please contact a Case Manager. You can also start your own search using our Clinical Trial Finder.

Clinical Trials Resources

Frequently Asked Questions
Free Patient Education Packet: includes Clinical Trials: Understanding How Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials Work

Related Topics
Clinical Trials Overview
How Does a New Treatment Get FDA Approval?
Benefits and Risks of Clinical Trials


Information provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. (“PanCAN”) is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or other health care services. PanCAN may provide information to you about physicians, products, services, clinical trials or treatments related to pancreatic cancer, but PanCAN does not recommend nor endorse any particular health care resource. In addition, please note any personal information you provide to PanCAN’s staff during telephone and/or email communications may be stored and used to help PanCAN achieve its mission of assisting patients with, and finding cures and treatments for, pancreatic cancer. Stored constituent information may be used to inform PanCAN programs and activities. Information also may be provided in aggregate or limited formats to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and education efforts. PanCAN will not provide personal directly identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to such third parties without your prior written consent unless required or permitted by law to do so. For more information on how we may use your information, you can find our privacy policy on our website at