Patient Involvement

older patient talking to doctor

The Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) takes cutting edge scientific research and assesses whether new treatments or tests are safe and work well in patients, ensuring that these findings lead to improvements in patient care.  

Clinical trials are the only means by which we can introduce better and kinder treatments for people with cancer. We are proud to be one of only eight CTUs funded by Cancer Research UK and their only dedicated CTU for children's cancers. We also receive funding from other charities and government funding bodies and key industry partners.

What is a clinical trial?

Trials investigate new drugs, medical devices, tests and dietary or behavioural changes (all classed as interventions) and often compare these with existing treatments, a placebo or with no intervention at all.

A clinical trial is used to test new treatments in people before they can be approved for use in routine NHS care. We need clinical trials in order to offer patients the best possible care in the future. The first phase of a clinical trial is to test whether a new intervention is safe in patients. We then go on to test whether it works and in particular, whether it is better than what is currently used in routine NHS care. They will also consider side effects and how quality of life may be affected. A clinical trial often looks at how treatments work in different groups of patients.

Participating in a trial

Patients will usually be asked to join a clinical trial by their doctor. Sometimes patients may hear about trials and discuss these with their clinical teams to see if they may be eligible. To be eligible the patient may need to match certain criteria and must be considered well enough to take part.

Any patient considering joining a clinical trial should have a clear understanding of what the trial aims to find out, what the risks and benefits are and what they will need to do to participate, for example and procedures they may have to undergo and how many appointments they will need to attend. All patients must consent before they can be part of a trial. Patients can change their mind about participating at any time without worry that this will affect their routine care. If they change their mind, their data could still be used to help the clinical trial if the patient is happy for this to happen.

There are sometimes optional areas for patients to consider, that will help our broader understanding of the cancer. This usually involves having some extra blood samples taken or additional biopsies. We will carry out tests on these samples and link the data to how the patient responds to the intervention in the trial. This is often known as “translational research” and is crucial, especially where we get mixed results from a trial (e.g. the intervention works in some patients but not others).

More information on getting involved

Involvement opportunities

Our clinical trials would not be possible without the selfless participation of our patients and support by their loved ones. In addition to trial participation, there are many different ways the public can get involved in our research.

Patients and members of the public are often invited to give their views and personal experience of illness and treatment to help to prioritise, plan, deliver, evaluate and share health and social care research.

You don’t need any qualifications or previous experience, just willingness to share your thoughts or personal experiences and to work as part of a team to help shape research. 

Before you get involved with any activity you will be told what to expect. For example, how long it will take, what tasks you need to do, support or training available and any payment offered.

How to get involved

Should you have any queries regarding the Patient Advisory Board, please contact Karen Turner ( 

  • Complete this survey if you would like to share your thoughts on the inclusion and engagement of patients, parents, carers and members of the public in the development and progress of our clinical trials.
  • If you are keen to contribute towards cancer research at Birmingham, the Involvement and Engagement in Cancer Research at Birmingham (ICRB) group is open to people affected by any type of cancer, be they patients, members of the public or carers. The group meets virtually 4-5 times a year. To enquire about becoming a member, please email our CRUK Senior Research Nurse, Karen Turner.
  • There is also the opportunity to join our patient group for people affected by brain tumours, the Brain tumour education and research patient and public involvement (BERTI) group West Midlands. Email the group to find out more.


We now have available newsletters for our PPIE contributors. You can download the latest published editions via the links.