Frequently Asked Questions

Most children with cancer receive treatment by taking part in research studies called clinical trials.

Seattle Children’s is a leader in pediatric cancer research, including clinical trials of novel therapies — new drugs or other new treatment approaches that are available only to patients in studies.

Among all pediatric oncology centers in the nation, we are among the top five, year after year, for patient enrollment in clinical trials. We are a member of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and partners with Fred Hutch.

Seattle Children’s is also home to the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, which is developing immunotherapies – treatments that use the immune system to defeat cancer. We are offering clinical trials of T-cell therapy for leukemia and neuroblastoma.

You can search by diagnosis for many clinical trials available through Seattle Children’s and its partners on Fred Hutch’s clinical trials page.

  • Is there a study for my child?

    Seattle Children’s offers clinical trials for children with many kinds and stages of cancer, including:

    • Children whose disease is newly diagnosed
    • Children who are already in treatment
    • Children whose cancer has come back

    Our researchers conduct:

    • Phase 1 trials to test new therapies to find out how much of the therapy to give, how to give it, how often, and when side effects occur
    • Phase 2 trials to tell whether a new therapy is safe and effective against a certain disease
    • Phase 3 trials to compare a new therapy to the standard treatment, or to compare a new use of existing therapies to the standard treatment

    Besides testing treatments, our physician-scientists conduct studies to:

    • Learn who’s at risk for cancer
    • Better understand the biology and mechanisms of cancer, or how cancer works
    • Find the best supportive therapies to help preserve our patients’ quality of life
    • Learn about the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment

    We are among a small group of institutions that take part in all of these national networks for research on cancer in children:

    You can search by diagnosis for many clinical trials available through Seattle Children’s and its partners on Fred Hutch’s clinical trials page.

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  • How can we get details about taking part in a study?

    To contact Seattle Children’s about taking part in a cancer clinical trial:

    • Call 206-987-2106 or, toll-free, 866-987-2000.
    • Email us.

    Our team can also consult with your doctor or provide a second opinion.

    Families may contact us without a doctor’s referral. It’s helpful if we can also speak with your child’s doctor, if your child is not already a patient here. This is even more helpful if your child’s cancer has come back after treatment. The doctor can often give our team details that matter for finding a clinical trial that matches your child’s needs.

    To give permission for your doctor or hospital and Seattle Children’s to exchange information about your child’s health:

    1. Download and print our release of information form (PDF), complete it, and fax it to us at 206-987-3946. This allows us to give out information about your child’s health as described on the form.
    2. Get a release of information from your doctor or hospital at home, complete it, and fax it to us at 206-987-3946. This allows them to give us information.

    If your child is a patient at Seattle Children’s and we have a study that matches your child’s situation, your child’s doctor will let you know. Then you and your child can choose whether to take part. We have clinical trials for a wide range of newly diagnosed and relapsed cancers. Please contact us with questions at 206-987-2106 or, toll-free, 866-987-2000.

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  • How do we decide whether to be in a study?

    Each study has a list of traits that people must have in order to join. These are called eligibility criteria. Children and families who match the criteria for a study may be offered the option to take part. No one is enrolled automatically.

    It’s important to know about and consider all your child’s treatment options. Your child’s team at Seattle Children’s is here to help guide you and answer questions as you decide about taking part in research. We will spend as much time as you like talking about the options, including the treatments your child might get as part of a study and the options for your child outside of a study. We will also give you written material about any study you are considering. Your child’s doctor and other caregivers at Seattle Children’s are good resources if you have questions.

    Some eligible families decide to take part, and others do not. Even after you begin a study, you can leave it at any time. If you decide not to take part, we will still provide the best care available for your child.

    To contact Seattle Children’s about taking part in a cancer clinical trial:

    • Call 206-987-2106 or, toll-free, 866-987-2000.
    • Email us.

    For more thoughts about deciding, read Dr. Abby Rosenberg’s blog post, Clinical Trials: What Would You Do If It Were Your Child?

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  • In a study, is my child sure to get the experimental therapy?

    The answer depends on the study.

    • In phase I and phase II trials, every participant gets the experimental therapy.
    • In phase III trials, some participants get the experimental therapy and others get the standard treatment.

    In a phase III trial, neither you nor the research team will decide which treatment your child gets; your child will be randomly assigned to one group or the other by a computer program. Researchers do this type of study when they have reason to think the experimental therapy may be at least as safe and effective as the standard. But there is no guarantee — they are doing the study in order to find out.

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  • What is done to protect my child’s safety in a study?

    Your child’s health and well-being are of the highest importance to us, just as we know they are to you. Safety is a top priority. Before a study ever opens to participants, it goes through many levels of review to help protect their safety. Oversight continues during the study. For example, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) monitors many of the studies we offer. If participants from another hospital in the study have side effects from the study treatment, NCI reports this information to us. We also have an ethics board within Seattle Children’s that reviews studies to protect children who take part. This is called an institutional review board, or IRB. You will get information about the risks of a study before you decide to join.
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  • Will my child’s health information stay private?

    Yes, your information is kept confidential. When your child takes part in research, you and your child still have the right to have healthcare information kept private. When researchers share or publish information about a study, they do not include details that would reveal your identity or your child’s identity to anyone else unless you give permission to do so.
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  • What other care will my child receive?

    When your child takes part in a clinical trial here, there is a team of people to provide the many types of care your child may need above and beyond the specific treatment being studied. You may be connected with professionals from many other areas of the hospital, such as nurses, dietitians, child life specialists, social workers, pharmacists, palliative care specialists and others. We have a large network to help support your child and your family.
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  • What kind of support can we get if we need to travel from outside the area?

    We have worked with many families from around the country and the world, and have in place many services to help support you if you are coming from elsewhere. These include:

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  • If we’re not from Seattle, can we go home and take part in the same studies through our local doctor?

    Most of the time, patients need to receive study treatments at Seattle Children’s. Sometimes treatments — or at least some aspects of treatment — can be safely delivered by a patient’s doctor or oncologist at home. We are happy to talk with you and your local doctor or oncologist about whether this might be an option for your child.
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  • What about finances?

    “Do we get paid to take part in a study? Do we have to pay for study treatments? Will our insurance pay?” Taking part in research can raise financial questions for families. Patients and families usually do not get paid for participating in research at Seattle Children’s. In phase 1 and phase 2 studies testing drugs, the drugs are typically provided to the patient at no charge. If your child has health insurance, the benefits may apply to other costs related to your child’s care. Our staff is experienced at working with families and insurers to advocate for coverage. We can help you find out what your insurance will cover. You may also pay for care yourself or apply for financial assistance. Our social workers can also connect you to organizations that offer support to help offset the financial costs of care.
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  • How do we contact Seattle Children’s about studies?

    To contact Seattle Children’s about taking part in a cancer clinical trial:

    • Call 206-987-2106 or, toll-free, 866-987-2000.
    • Email us.

    Our team can also consult with your doctor or provide a second opinion.

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