Cedars-Sinai Blog

The Truth About Clinical Trials: Myths and Facts

Clinical trials help doctors and researchers find new ways to treat diseases. They can also offer patients a chance to try a potential treatment and help future patients diagnosed with the same disease.

We spoke with Ray Robles, a research specialist who oversees clinical trials for the departments of Surgery and Orthopaedics at Cedars-Sinai. He shared some common misconceptions patients have about clinical trials.

Myth: You have to give up your usual treatments to join a clinical trial.

Some researchers want patients to stay on their current medical treatment with the hope that the combination will give them the best results. But if a patient hasn't seen any benefits from their treatment, joining a clinical trial could be a way to fight their disease. Remember, you can always go back your original therapy if the study is not working for you or you have a negative reaction to the study drug.

Myth: Children are not allowed to participate in clinical trials.

Children can take part in clinical trials with the permission of their legal guardian. The research team may meet with the child to make sure they understand what the trial is about. They may even use pictures to explain the study. If the child is mature enough, the research team will ask for their written consent.

Myth: You can only participate in a clinical trial at the medical center where you're currently being treated.

You can take part in any clinical trial, even if your primary doctor isn't doing the actual research. Let your doctor know if you're interested in joining a study, too. Doctors can help determine if you're eligible for a particular study and may be able to assist in getting copies of your medical record to the right people.

Myth: You have to be terminally ill to take part in a clinical trial.

While some clinical trials focus on terminally ill patients, many studies also want healthy volunteers. This helps researchers collect data that can be used to compare with those who have a specific disease or condition. Healthy volunteers can also help researchers learn more about a disease.

Myth: Clinical studies only use placebos.

Placebos can help researchers learn whether the new medicine works better than the standard treatment. Some studies use a placebo—which can come in the form of an injection, liquid, pill, or procedure. Placebos look like the clinical trial treatment but don't affect the illness. The consent form will always say whether a placebo will be used in the course of the clinical trial.

Ray says to reduce bias in a study, the patients—and sometimes the research staff—are not told which patients receive a placebo.

Some studies will offer patients who received the placebo a chance to receive the study drug during a future clinical trial. If this is an option, it will also be on the consent form.

Joining a clinical trial can give patients choices and access to investigational treatments they wouldn't have otherwise. It's also a chance to help future patients. Researchers are always looking for better ways to prevent, detect, and treat diseases. Clinical trial participants are a vital part of this lifesaving work.

To learn more about clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai, visit the clinical trials page.