I was a participant in several NCI sponsored clinical trials, one main one to determine the efficacy of MRI guided radiotherapy, and a couple of subsidiary ones that performed biopsies and studied tissue samples pre and post radiation.
Here are some of the things I discovered about clinical trials - at least the ones I was in:
1. The quality of the doctors is very high. The people conducting clinical trials are not just medical practitioners, they're scientists. They were able to cite current scientific literature. They could explain concepts to whatever depth I was able to understand. They were very aware of what they knew and, equally important, what they didn't know. The docs also spent more time with me than most doctors do.
2. The medical testing was exceptionally good. The trial investigators needed to know as much about me as possible in order to determine whether I was really a candidate for the trial and to gain insights after the trial about what worked or didn't work and why. Extensive scans and blood tests were performed.
3. The follow-up was exceptionally good.
4. For my trials, the cost was born entirely by the trial sponsor (the National Cancer Institute). I paid nothing for my examinations, treatment, hospital stay, or follow-up. Even my parking fees were paid.
5. New knowledge was gained and published. In my particular case, the trial was a success but was overtaken by events. MRI guided radiotherapy worked well but improvements in much cheaper x-ray and ultrasound guidance made those cheaper technologies just as good.
I recommend that everyone at least consider participation in clinical trials if there are trials appropriate for their particular situation.