Common concerns about clinical trials

I don’t want to get a placebo instead of treatment.

In cancer treatment clinical trials, inactive treatments, or placebos, are never used in place of active cancer 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.

I am worried about the side effects of an experimental drug.

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.

I am worried I will not be able to afford a clinical trial.

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 from state to state, person to person and health plan to health plan. Most states require health insurance plans to cover the routine care costs of a clinical trial. If the patient’s insurance plan does not cover these costs, the patient may be responsible for them.

Financial costs should be discussed with the clinical trial coordinator and the patient’s insurance company before enrolling in a pancreatic cancer clinical trial.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) program maintains a comprehensive database containing up-to-date information about all pancreatic cancer clinical trials taking place in the United States. We offer personalized clinical trial searches so that patients can find trials for which they may be eligible.

Let us help you find a clinical trial that may be right for you!


The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network recommends that all patients consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options.

Clinical trials overview
Learn about pancreatic cancer clinical trials
How does a new treatment get FDA approval?
What rights and protections do participants have in a clinical trial?
Benefits and considerations

The information and services provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. are for informational purposes only. The information and services are not intended to be substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, see a doctor immediately! The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network does not recommend nor endorse any specific physicians, products or treatments even though they may be mentioned on this site. In addition, please note that any personal information you provide to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s associates during telephone and/or email consultations may be stored in a secure database to assist the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. in providing you with the best service possible. Portions of the constituent data stored in this database may be used to inform future programs and services of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc., and may be provided in aggregate form to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and treatment efforts. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. will not provide personal identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to third parties without your advanced written consent.  111221