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 according to state, person and health plan.  Typically, the patient and 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.

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


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 that any personal information you provide to PanCAN’s associates 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 treatment 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.