There are many clinical trials taking place for secondary breast cancer. You should be able to take part in any trials suitable for you.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are studies that usually compare different treatments. They split patients into two or more groups and patients in each group receive a different treatment and are carefully assessed. Sometimes, clinical trials test how well a new experimental drug works.

Other times, they test a drug that is already used, but with a new dose, alongside another treatment or to treat a different disease.

Clinical trials are very important. Without them, it would not be possible to check how well drugs work, and no new drugs could be licensed for use.

Sometimes, the results of a trial show that the new treatment is as good as, or better than, the current one. Other times, they show that the current treatment is still best.

Trials are carefully designed to make sure that the people taking part are protected as much as possible. Drugs are tested in the laboratory and then in small groups of patients before a larger trial is planned.

Your safety is more important than the research.

Your treatment will be stopped (or the whole trial may be stopped) if it becomes too risky for you, for example if side effects are worse than expected.

What are the pros and cons of going on a trial?

The advantages of taking part in a trial include:

  • You might receive a newer treatment that controls your cancer better or that has fewer side effects
  • Your health will be closely monitored during the trial, which you might find reassuring
  • The results might help people like you to get better treatments in the future

The disadvantages of going on a trial include:

  • You won’t be able to choose which treatment you have on the trial (you might not be given the new one)
  • Taking part might mean more trips to hospital and more tests
  • The treatment you’re given might turn out to be the one that works less well or that has more side effects

Should I go on a clinical trial?

There are many clinical trials taking place for secondary breast cancer. You should be able to take part in any trials suitable for you. It’s important that you’re happy to take part though. Taking part in a clinical trial is a very individual choice.

There is no right or wrong decision about whether to sign up. Some people prefer to stick with treatments that are already proven to work.

Others want to take part in a trial in the hope that they can help others or might receive a drug that works better or has fewer side effects. You might want to talk to your friends, family, other patients and your treatment team about the idea of taking part in a trial.

If you are considering a trial, you’ll be given full information before you agree to take part.

Make sure you read it carefully and ask any questions you have before you agree. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t want to do the trial.

How can I find out if there is a suitable trial for me?

The best person to talk to about clinical trials is your oncologist. They will know which trials are happening that might be suitable for you. Each trial has strict rules for who can take part (known as inclusion criteria) and who cannot (exclusion criteria).

For example, a trial might be for a particular type of breast cancer only, or for patients who have received certain other treatments before.

Your oncologist will be able to check these criteria for you.

Tips and advice

Advice on getting the best care

To help you feel confident you’re getting the best care, you may want to:

  • Ask your oncologist if there are any clinical trials that might be suitable for you
  • If so, ask them to explain the risks and benefits of taking part

Information Standard

Information last reviewed: October 2015

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