A clinical trial is a way to find out how well treatments or drugs work and what the possible side effects may be. Some trials are done to see if one treatment is better than another. Other trials look at a new test to see if it helps doctors understand a disease better. Sometimes clinical trials test unproven or untested drugs.
Many clinical trials are approved for insurance coverage. If you participate in an approved clinical trial, your insurance company must pay for the same treatments and services in the clinical trial that you would have received if you were not in the clinical trial. Your doctor can help you find out if there are approved trials available to you.

Every health insurance plan is different, so you should talk to your health insurance company as soon as you can. This way you will know ahead of time what your insurance will pay for and what you will have to pay for yourself.
Usually you join a clinical trial at the clinic or hospital where the clinical trial takes place. If you've found a clinical trial you want to join, contact the clinical trial coordinator. This person will make an appointment for you to meet with the clinical trial doctor. If you don't know who that person is, you can look here or on You can also call the hospital's main phone number and ask for the Clinical Trials Office and speak with someone there about joining the clinical trial. You can also ask your primary doctor to contact the clinical trial doctor to find out about the trial and if you can join.

If you'd like help finding a clinical trial, call our Clinical Trial Patient Education Specialist at 1(888) 814-8610 or email
Clinical trials phases show how far along a trial is in the research process. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires new treatments to go through 3 phases of clinical trials to be approved for use. The phases are:

Phase 1 – These trials test new treatments to see if they are safe and to find out the best way to give them to patients. These are small trials, usually with fewer than 30 people. These treatments have been tested on animals. Often, patients in Phase 1 trials are the very first people to try them. When Phase 1 trials show good results, they will usually move to Phase 2.

Phase 2 – These trials test how well the new treatment will work to treat a disease. Sometimes there might be multiple treatments in the same trial and patients will be randomly chosen to get one or the other. This is important to make sure treatments are compared fairly. When Phase 2 trials show good results, they will usually move to Phase 3.

Phase 3 – These trials test to see if the new treatment is better than current treatment that has already been approved by the FDA. Patients who join Phase 3 trials may be randomly chosen to have either the new treatment or the current treatment. Sometimes the patient and the doctor won't know which treatment is given. This makes sure treatments are compared fairly. When Phase 3 trials show good results, they are often approved by the FDA and available to treat all patients without being part of a clinical trial.

Watch this video from the National Cancer Institute, which explains clinical trial phases.