Enrolling your child in a clinical trial

Most children with cancer are offered treatment through a clinical trial at some time during their illness, and many of them participate. But it can be hard to decide if a clinical trial will be the best treatment for your child.

Why a clinical trial for my child?

All of the successful treatments for cancer and other diseases in children were first tested in clinical trials. Talk to your child’s healthcare team or the clinical trials team to find out more about the clinical trial they recommend for your child and why.

The main reason for your child to be in a clinical trial is that the treatment being tested may work better than the standard treatments that are accepted and commonly used for the type of cancer they have. But there is no guarantee that the treatment being tested will work for your child, even if it works for other children, or that it will be as effective as the researchers think it will be.

Along with hoping that a clinical trial will be the best treatment for their child, some parents find it worthwhile to participate because doing so contributes to what we know about cancer in children. When the trial is done – no matter what the results are – there will be new information to help other children and their families in the future.

Clinical trials in children also help researchers understand more about how treatments affect children. Most drugs are tested in adults, but children are not “little” adults. Only through research can we find out if drugs work as well in children, what kind of doses are needed and if they are safe. It’s also important to understand how treatments may affect children’s growing bodies and brains. Research has also led to different forms of medicines that are easier for children to take, such as liquids or chewable tablets.

Deciding not to be in a trial

Having your child in a clinical trial is a choice – it is not something that you must do. Your child’s care will not be affected, whether or not they are in a clinical trial.

If your child is old enough to understand the information about a clinical trial and doesn’t want to be part of the research, they shouldn’t be.

If you decide not to take part in a clinical trial, your child will continue to receive the same quality of care from your child’s healthcare team and the hospital. If you do decide to take part in the research, signing a consent form is not a contract. You or your child can change your mind and withdraw at any time.

Expert review and references

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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