How to join a clinical trial

This page has information on what to do if you are interested in taking part in a trial listed on our clinical trials database. There are sections about

Finding a suitable trial

To see if a trial is suitable, you need to look at the eligibility criteria. In the trial summaries on our clinical trials database, this information is in the section about who can join the trial.

Go to our clinical trial database.

To be able to make sense of a trial's results, researchers need to be able to compare the outcome for all the people who took part. So they need to be very specific about the group of people (the population) who join the trial. For example, they are likely to decide on a single cancer type and often a particular cancer stage. There will usually be many other criteria that have been carefully worked out at the trial planning stage.

However much you want to, you can't join a trial if you don’t meet the criteria that have been set. When a trial is in the news we sometimes get enquiries asking if people can join with a different type of cancer. Trials don't allow this. It wouldn’t be a good idea because different cancer types respond to different types of treatment. Doctors need to know whether a new treatment is better than the existing treatment for, say, people with lung cancer. Having people with other types of cancer in the same trial wouldn't help us to find that out.

You can join more than one trial, so even if you are already on a trial you could join another if it is relevant to you. 

Getting signed up for a trial

If you see a trial on our database that you are interested in, you need to discuss it with your own doctor or cancer specialist. To help you, you can print off a copy of the information and take it along with you.

If the trial looks suitable for you, your doctor contacts a doctor in the trial team to ask if you can take part. This is called a medical referral.

Generally, having a medical referral is the only way you can join a trial. You should talk to your own doctor first, rather than trying to contact the people running the trial. They will not be able to sign you up to the trial without your doctor’s input.

Each trial we list includes contact details for the Cancer Research UK Information Nurses. You can contact them if you have any general questions about taking part in a trial. And you can talk through your circumstances to find out if the trial is likely to be suitable. You can phone the nurses on 0808 800 4040 (freephone) 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Or you can use our form to send us a question.

The information nurses are not directly involved with the trials and can’t recruit you. Only your own doctor can say for sure that a trial is suitable for you because they have all your medical details. 

There may be a reason that your doctor thinks a particular trial wouldn't be right for you. If you are keen to be involved in a clinical trial, they might know of another one that would be suitable.

Some trials are designed to invite specific groups of people to join, for example, people registered with a GP in a particular area, or people having treatment at a specific cancer centre. You can't volunteer for these trials. If this is the case, we clearly explain that in the trial details.

Finding out where a trial is taking place

In each trial summary, we list the towns and cities that have a centre taking part. The Cancer Research UK Information Nurses can tell you more about where a trial is running, so your doctor can refer you to the nearest centre.

Some trials take place in many hospitals throughout the country, so there may well be one near to you. But other trials may only run in one place or in just a few hospitals. They may not be in the same part of the country as you. This is something that you would also need to discuss with your doctor. You may still be able to take part, but it could involve a lot of extra travelling or even staying near the trial centre for a time. So it is important to think about this carefully.

Related information

Last reviewed

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Find a trial

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