Who can take part in a clinical trial?

All trials have guidelines about who can take part. These are sometimes called eligibility or inclusion criteria. For example, a trial may only include people with a certain type or stage of cancer. The stage of a cancer is its size and whether it has spread.

Trials also have guidelines about who cannot take part. These are called exclusion criteria. This is to make sure it would be safe for you to take part and that results are as accurate as possible.

Some possible reasons why you may not be able to take part in a trial are:

  • you have another health condition
  • you take certain medicines
  • you have had certain treatments in the past.

Your cancer doctor or nurse can tell you if a certain trial is suitable for you.

Your general health

With some trials, your cancer doctor may look at your general health to decide whether it is suitable for you. They need to make sure treatments will not make you feel worse than you would without treatment.

Your cancer doctor or nurse may look at how you are able to carry out certain day-to-day activities. This includes things like getting dressed, looking after personal hygiene and feeding yourself. They use different scales to grade how active you are. Cancer doctors call this performance status. Some trials may say people need you to have a particular performance status to take part.

A person’s performance status can range between:

  • being active in a similar way to before your illness
  • needing some help to look after yourself
  • needing help with all your care needs.

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Safety in clinical trials

All clinical trials must meet high standards of practice, be approved by an ethics committee and closely monitored for safety.