ACT: About Clinical Trials

20% of people living with cancer qualify to join a cancer clinical trial, but only 3% participate.1

Taking part in cancer clinical trials helps doctors and scientists better understand cancer. Cancer clinical trials can also offer the chance for patients to receive investigational treatments that might offer some improvement over standard treatment. So why is it that so few patients who could join cancer clinical trials take steps to do so?

It turns out that many people don’t even know that joining a cancer clinical trial may be an option. And in many cases, people who are aware of cancer clinical trials are hesitant to participate. This is why the American Cancer Society has partnered with Genentech to develop an educational program called ACT: About Clinical Trials.

Why do we need cancer clinical trials?

With nearly 800 medicines to study in the United States and over 3000 active cancer clinical trials, there are more chances to participate than ever.2

Over the past 40 years, we have seen tremendous growth in the way we understand and treat cancer. We owe this to the millions of patients who have volunteered to participate in cancer clinical trials during this time. Through these studies, we’ve learned more about how cancer cells respond to different treatments, what characteristics to look for to diagnose cancer sooner, and how certain cancers might be prevented.

Today, there are over 3000 active cancer clinical trials designed to investigate new or different ways to treat, diagnose, or prevent cancer.2 This represents a great opportunity to continue our pursuit of a cure for this disease.

Why don’t more people join cancer clinical trials?

There are many valid reasons why some eligible patients don’t join cancer clinical trials. Perhaps the nearest clinical trial is just too far away, or the time commitment is too great. These are understandable reasons for pursuing options other than clinical trials. But one major reason people don’t join cancer clinical trials is a lack of patient awareness. In fact, in one survey of 6000 cancer patients, 85% said they did not know that joining a clinical trial was an option.3

There’s also plenty of misinformation about clinical trials. Many people fear that they won’t receive quality care in a trial setting. Others are hesitant to join a trial because they think they might be in a study group that receives no treatment at all. And there are also those who simply feel wary of the clinical trial process.

What can we do?

The ACT program raises awareness and educates people about cancer clinical trials. In a series of unscripted, documentary-style videos, clinical trial participants, their caregivers, healthcare professionals, and patient advocates explain cancer clinical trials in real terms through their own experiences. The videos talk about many of the very real issues people need to take into account when considering the option of cancer clinical trials.

It is important to all of us that patients and their loved ones consider all of their options. Please visit and review the videos and resources provided to ensure that you and your loved ones are educated and prepared to have productive, informed discussions with your treatment team.


1 D’Amato SA. Identifying and overcoming participation barriers in cancer clinical trials. Cancer Therapy Advisor website. Published October 4, 2012. Accessed April 14, 2015.

2 Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. 2014 report: Medicines in development for cancer. Effective September 26, 2014. Accessed May 18, 2015.

3 IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2010. Transforming clinical research in the United States: challenges and opportunities: workshop summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Accessed May 18, 2015.