Learn About Clinical Trials

What is a clinical trial?


A clinical trial is a style of research that helps scientists improve therapies and work toward finding cures for cancers or diseases. For instance, a hospital could be studying a new drug to prevent polyp growth or a new treatment to fight cancer. Nearly all the cancer treatments and medications used today began with clinical trials and were eventually approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Clinical trials are designed to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat a disease. Each clinical trial is closely monitored to determine if a new treatment can be used for a particular purpose. Scientists study clinical trial treatments to determine if they will be more effective or produce fewer side effects than current remedies.


Types of treatment include: 


  • new drugs


  • medical devices


  • and “biologics” (examples of biologics are living cells, vaccines, tissue cells, blood cells, or gene therapy that can be used to treat a disease).

"How can we treat/cure FAP without volunteers? Someone has to be the guinea pigs (so to speak). It was a no brainer! If there is something that can be done to treat/cure FAP, I want to know about it and benefit from it. Even though I am not passing this damned disease on, others are and there has to be an end to the disease one day. As for participating again in a clinical study…

HELL YEAH!" - Betty Starr

Who Participates in a Clinical Trial?


Clinical trials are dependent upon people volunteering to participate. People with a particular disease can play a role in contributing to medical advances. Sometimes healthy people can help, too. Clinical trial studies simply would not be possible without volunteers.


But not everyone can volunteer to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials have certain requirements that decide who can participate and who cannot. Although a trial may be studying a treatment for your hereditary colon cancer syndrome, you may not be eligible for participation. An example of a requirement may be a certain number of polyps in particular area of your intestines. Or you may be required to have polyps of a certain size. The clinical trial coordinators will discuss with you their requirements for participation and how they will determine your eligibility.


Volunteering for a clinical study is a personal choice. You have no obligation to do so, and participation is not right for everyone. After enrolling in a study, you may leave at any time for any reason.


Click here to find out about ongoing clinical trials. You may also ask your healthcare provider about clinical trials that are currently recruiting participants.


Some reasons to volunteer in a clinical study:


  • Desire to improve medical care for future generations

  • Connection to a certain disease or illness, whether through personal experience or through friends or family

  • Opportunity to receive low-cost or free medical care from an expert team

  • Potential to receive an effective treatment

  • Personal interest in science




Information used to the develop this page was sourced from the following institutions: The Huntsman Cancer Institute's Clinical Trials Office and the Mayo Clinic.