You may have undergone chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery in the earlier stages of your cancer. In progressive stages, the techniques are usually less about curing and more about improving the length and quality of your life.

The treatments may be used, alone or together, to shrink the cancer or slow its growth, particularly if it is causing pain. Not everyone will benefit from palliative chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, but it is worth discussing with your doctor or oncologist.

The treatment of all types of cancer is always being researched and breakthroughs occur regularly. If you have given up on the tried and tested, you may find hope in clinical trials relevant to your illness.


Traces of some chemotherapy drugs can be passed to other bodily fluids, so it may be necessary to take precautions (eg. latex gloves, condoms). Ask your oncologist.

These trials are usually run by teaching hospitals, universities, or drug companies and test techniques, vaccines or drugs that have shown promising results during development and are ready to be tested under controlled conditions in “real life”.

Some trials involve more risk than others, and some may have ethical concerns. A legitimate clinical trial will have complied with a number of strict conditions and passed an ethical review.

What may help

Ask questions

It may be helpful to ask your doctor or oncologist questions such as:

  • How will chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery affect the size of the cancer?
  • Will palliative chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery give me more time? If so, how much?
  • What are the potential benefits for me?
  • What are the main side-effects and will I feel better or worse?
  • Are there other options, such as hospice or palliative care?


The internet can be a helpful tool when it comes to researching other treatments, vaccines and clinical trials. But, always be wary of the credibility and accuracy of the information. Ask your doctor or specialist for their thoughts on any information you gather.

The results of clinical trials are often published in medical journals – such as the Medical Journal of Australia – many of which are available online.

Some research organisations advertise for trial participants, so keep an eye on the notice boards at the hospital you attend. It is also worth checking if your doctor, oncologist or other specialists have been approached by researchers looking for trial participants.

For more information

Up-to-date information on clinical trials can be found at:

Last updated 30 August 2015