You may have the opportunity to be involved in a trial testing new breast cancer treatments

Clinical trials are the most effective and reliable way of finding out which are the best treatments for breast cancer. You may have the chance to participate in a clinical trial as part of your treatment.

This can be rewarding, as you could be helping to advance medical knowledge and shape future breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. A clinical trial may also offer you the chance to receive new drugs, although there is no guarantee that these will be better than the standard treatment. If you participate in a trial your progress may be monitored more closely than with standard treatment, which you may find reassuring. However, this does mean it is likely you will have to attend more appointments.

Can I take part in a clinical trial?

There are many clinical trials taking place for breast cancer. You may have to meet certain requirements to be able to take part in a trial. For example, a trial may be designed to test a treatment in women who have a particular type of breast cancer or who are in a specific age group. You can ask your breast care team about any ongoing clinical trials that might be suitable for you. You can also find UK trials that are currently recruiting patients at the UK Clinical Trials Gateway or Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database.

We believe that you should be offered the chance to be included in relevant clinical trials. But it is important that you are happy to take part; you should be fully informed of the benefits and risks before you agree. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t want to take part in a trial – this will not affect the overall care you receive from your breast care team. If you do take part in a trial and are not responding to the treatment, or are experiencing too many side effects, you should be given the option to withdraw or change treatment.

How do clinical trials work?

Patients are split into different groups. Each group receives a different treatment, so that the success and side effects of these different treatments can be compared. For example, a newly developed drug might be compared with an existing drug, or different doses of a drug might be compared.

If you take part in a clinical trial, you probably won’t know which treatment you are receiving until the trial ends. You also cannot choose which treatment you are given. This is so that the results of the trial are not influenced by people’s views of which treatment might be best. It is important to know that entering a clinical trial does not guarantee you treatment that is better than existing treatments.

In many cases, clinical trials lead to new and better treatments being identified. Others confirm that established treatments are still the best.

Need more information?

You can also find details of current clinical trials at the UK Clinical Trials Gateway or Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database.

 

Information Standard

Information last reviewed: November 2017

Next review due: November 2020

Breast Cancer Now's health information is covered by NHS England's Information Standard quality mark. Find out how this resource was developed.