Cancer clinical trials: A future of better cancer care

Volunteering your time can lead to better cancer care. Clinical trials are research studies that help find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. With hundreds of trials available for enrollment at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center participants have access to advanced treatments while helping to improve care for future patients.


What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies designed to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Only those patients who agree to volunteer are eligible to participate.

More than 250 clinical trials are available for patient enrollment at UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center. Some of our clinical trials are also conducted at community hospitals and regional cancer centers affiliated with Carbone Cancer Center.

Several pediatric cancer clinical trials are coordinated with American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

For more information about clinical trials, visit the National Cancer Institute.

Contact us to learn more about clinical trials

For general questions about clinical trials, contact the Clinical Trials Nurse Navigator at (608) 262-0439 or

Patients at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center are often among the first in the world to access promising new treatments. Learn more about how clinical trials work.

Frequently asked questions

Benefits of participating in a clinical trial

By taking part in a clinical trial, you can:

  • Gain earlier access to new treatments before they’re available to others; this could result in a better outcome for yourself if the drug is found to be effective

  • Help us learn more about diseases and effective treatments

  • Contribute to and improve care for future patients

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center actively supports participation from Black, Asian, Hispanic and other members of minority groups. Individuals from these populations have traditionally been underrepresented in clinical trials. Enrolling more minority-group patients will lead to more meaningful findings about new cancer treatments being studied.

Frequently asked questions

Clinical trials must follow strict rules and regulations to protect the safety of every trial participant. All cancer treatments, including clinical trials, have potential risks and benefits. Some of the risks of participating in a clinical trial can include needing to undergo extra tests or procedures, and the new drugs used in clinical trials may not be as good or better than our existing treatments.

Participants in clinical trials will have the opportunity to discuss the potential risks and benefits of a clinical trial before enrollment through a process called informed consent. Participating in a clinical trial is completely voluntary and you can stop participating at any time, for any reason. You will still receive the best care from UW Health regardless of whether you enrolled in a clinical trial.

At Carbone, we believe every patient has the right to know about all their options, including clinical trials. Each clinical trial has guidelines about who can participate, including:

  • Having a certain type or stage of cancer

  • Having received (or not received) a certain kind of treatment in the past

  • Medical history

  • Current health status

Before participating in a clinical trial, you may want to ask your doctor or study team these questions:

  • Why are you suggesting this clinical trial for me?

  • What are the risks and benefits of this trial?

  • What other treatment options are available?

  • What are the possible short- and long-term side effects?

  • What kinds of tests and procedures and/or medications will I need for the trial?

  • Will my insurance cover the cost of being in the trial?

There may be extra costs related to your participation in a clinical trial. A study coordinator will provide you with information about costs and assist with issues related to insurance coverage.

Please talk with your doctor and study coordinator before contacting your health insurance provider. If you must travel for a clinical trial, you may be eligible for reimbursement of certain expenses, such as lodging and food. Talk with your study team about financial resources available to you.

In Wisconsin, insurance companies are required to cover routine costs of clinical trials.

Any cancer care normally covered by Medicare is also covered when it is part of a clinical trial. Medicare does not cover investigational drugs, items, or services being tested in a trial. These costs are generally covered by the company or agency sponsoring the clinical trial.

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center partners with several hospitals and clinics throughout Wisconsin that allow patients in those communities to participate in clinical trials, which can save patients some or all travel to Madison. Clinical trial offerings are also available at UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center Rockford in Rockford, Illinois. Ask your doctor for more details.

Doctor showing a patient information on a clipboard

Find a clinical trial at UW Health

Explore active trials and learn how to get involved.

Find a clinical trial

Types of trials

The different kinds of clinical trials

The different types of trials include:

  • Treatment trials test new treatments. These include new cancer drugs, new approaches to surgery or radiation, or other potentially promising treatment methods.

  • Prevention trials test new approaches, such as medicines, vitamins, minerals or other supplements, which may lower the risk of getting a certain type of cancer

  • Screening trials test the best way to detect cancer, especially in its early stages

  • Quality of life trials look at ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers

Phases of clinical trials

Clinical trials are typically grouped into three phases. Each phase is designed to gather a certain kind of information about a new drug or treatment. Patient safety is prioritized in each phase.

  • Phase I

    This phase is designed to identify the best way to give new treatments and the most appropriate dose while looking at safety and side effects.

    • Typically, it enrolls 10 to 50 patients

    • Carbone is unique in offering Phase I clinical trials; only certain centers are able to conduct these types of studies

  • Phase II

    This phase studies the effectiveness of the drug or treatment while continuing to monitor patient safety.

    • Typically, enrolls no more than 100 patients

    • Treatments proven to be as effective as current therapies are then studied in Phase III trials

  • Phase III

    This phase compares the new treatment with existing standard treatment.

    • Many patients internationally participate in these studies

    • Every patient involved in a Phase III study receives either the new treatment or the current treatment

    • Patients never receive a placebo in place of the best-known treatment available for a given cancer

Patient stories

Finding hope through clinical trials

When Gary Davey was offered the opportunity to participate in a ground-breaking clinical trial at UW Health, he said, ‘Sign me up!’ Little did he know how that contribution would impact his life, assist researchers in understanding more about the innovative treatment, and ultimately help thousands of other patients.
A photo of Gary Davey
February 19, 2024Patient overcomes metastatic prostate cancer thanks to clinical trial
Cancer clinic medical staff reviewing images
April 16, 2024Your guide to understanding phases of cancer clinical trials
Clinical trials can be an important resource for patients at every stage of their cancer diagnosis, but understanding the scientific terms, study protocols and process can be intimidating to many patients.
Doctor Amy Fowler wearing a white coat in a lab
April 16, 2024Clinical trial looks to improve treatment of early-stage breast cancer
A new clinical trial at UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center seeks to improve precision of presurgical treatments of early-stage breast cancer.
Doctors looking at a screen in a lab.
Join our fight to cure cancer

Chances are, you or someone you know has been touched by cancer. Support the latest advances in cutting-edge cancer research and treatment with a gift to the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center — Wisconsin’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.