There are a number of ways to find out about clinical trials in your area.

The first step is, of course, to ask your treating physician what's available. But you can do a lot of homework yourself simply by going online. Here are some Web sites with helpful information about clinical trials, from where to find one to what the research means:

clinicaltrials.gov, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, contains a large database of clinical trials with human subjects. It has a very searchable database and also contains links to completed studies and both open and closed clinical trials.

cancer.gov is the National Cancer Institute's cancer trial registry and includes links to recent study results for various cancers.

www.fda.gov is the official Web site of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and contains helpful information about clinical trials, as well as links to other sites. It also guides the consumer through complaining about a medication. www.fda.gov/medwatch provides safety information on regulated medical products.

medlineplus.gov, by the National Library of Medicine, offers very good basic information including a glossary and encyclopedia to help understand the research. It also contains abstracts from an international selection of medical journals.

drugs.com contains information, including summarized clinical trials' results, on many drugs that have entered the market only recently.

• At amedeo.com you can look up (at no cost) medical studies from various journals. Many medical journal articles are available on other sites for a fee.