"He went through six operations and was placed on a clinical trial so he could try new treatments.”
A study looking at the experiences of young people who were asked to take part in a clinical trial
This study included young people between the ages of 10 to 23, including some who had cancer.
Those in the study either had a health condition or disease, or were healthy volunteers. They had all been asked to take part in a clinical trial.
More about this trial
Clinical trials are important to help doctors test new treatments and improve existing treatments. But it can be difficult to recruit children and young people into clinical trials.
The aim of the
Everyone in this study had an interview with a study researcher. The researcher asked young people about their experiences. The study hoped to understand more about the sort of information and support young people need.
This study was part of a larger research project looking at people’s experiences of clinical trials and other medical research. You can look at some of videos that formed part of this research and read more about the results on the healthtalk.org website.
Summary of results
The study team gained a deeper understanding of young people’s experiences of taking part in a clinical trial.
Young people were asked to be involved in this study in a variety of ways:
- by the health professionals looking after them
- through support organisations
- word of mouth
The study was also advertised through flyers in clinics, asking people to contact the study team if they were interested.
25 young people took part. 20 people had health conditions such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, Graves’ disease or migraines. Four of the young people had cancer. Two people were healthy volunteers who had been asked to take part in trials involving a vaccine (to prevent certain illnesses).
Out of this 25:
- some of the young people had taken part in more than one trial
- 1 person decided not to take part in a trial after being invited
- 1 person withdrew from the trial they were taking part in
Everyone was interviewed in their home by a researcher. These interviews were either video or audio recorded. The researchers asked the young people questions about how they were asked to take part in a trial. And, if they did become involved in a trial, what taking part was like.
They were asked:
- what they thought and felt at different points
- what information they received and how
- the good and bad parts of the whole experience
The young people highlighted a number of reasons for taking part. The 2 main themes were:
- personal benefit
- helping others
People gave different explanations for what they meant by personal benefit. These included:
- health benefit - access to new treatments or different ways of having treatment
- wanting to gain a better understanding of their condition
- helping them come to terms with their condition
- a belief that it would lead to more attention from health professionals and better care
- feeling good about themselves – feeling more in control and improving self esteem
Receiving some sort of reward for taking part in a trial was not an important theme amongst the young people. The rewards were usually small, such as a voucher or magazine. Two people said this was a reason for taking part. But they also said that they would still have taken part if no reward was offered.
Most of the young people wanted to help others as well as themselves. For a few people, their only motivation to take part was to benefit others.
For example, they wanted to help people in the future, or other people they knew who had the same disease. Some people wanted to take part in order to help their doctors, or to help their parents.
Some felt it was important to be part of research in return for all the support and care they have had.
Young people’s recommendations
The young people interviewed offered the following recommendations:
- health professionals should do more clinical trials involving children and young people
- health professionals should offer trials to children if there are suitable trials
- provide a protected website where young people can learn about the clinical trials going on and express their interest in taking part
- this website could be a place where young people can share their experiences and talk to other people taking part in similar research
- tell people about the results of a trial as soon as possible and to let them know if their involvement in a trial has helped
To improve recruitment into trials the researchers recommended that doctors and nurses:
- be more open with young people about trials that are going on and whether they might be eligible
- provide better information to young people and parents about trials and research. One way of doing this might be to have a website providing information about past and present trials
- give young people feedback about trial results
The researchers pointed out that doctors or nurses are sometimes reluctant to tell the child or their parents about a possible trial. This might be because of concerns that:
- the family will be burdened with a difficult decision.
- they might not understand the risks and benefits of research
The results of the interviews suggested that these concerns were unnecessary.
The study team found that the young people in this study were very aware that the research might not benefit them. And that they might be in the control group having standard treatment, or no treatment.
They wanted to have the opportunity to consider trials, if this was an option.
The researchers recognised that the majority of people taking part in this study had agreed to take part in a clinical trial. They recommend that future research looks at the reasons why some young people do, and some do not, decide to be part of a trial.
The healthtalk website also has information about parent’s experiences of their children taking part in clinical trials.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Dr Lesley Powell
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
University of Oxford