Introduction to Clinical Trials

This Clinical Trial Guide article provides an introduction to clinical trials for patients.
Back January 24, 2023

This Clinical Trial Guide article provides an introduction to Clinical Trials. If you are reading our online Clinical Trial Guide, it is likely either you or someone you care about is considering enrolling in a clinical trial that tests drug interventions that could help with your condition, or even cure it. We hope you are reading this early on in your or a loved one’s diagnosis. For some conditions, such as cancer, the best time to get started in a trial is immediately following diagnosis.

At Clinical Trial Guide, we’ve assembled a team of clinical trial authorities to create this resource and are here to help guide you through the complexities of clinical trials. We want to assist you in finding the type of trial that best fits your needs and will benefit you the most. First, we want you to understand what motivates companies and institutions to conduct clinical research and why people seek to participate in them.

This article will introduce the essentials of clinical trial research and how clinical trials work. Let’s see whether clinical trials are the next step for you!

Clinical Research Explained

When you volunteer to take part in clinical research, you are helping researchers and physicians advance their understanding of diseases and how best to treat them. There are four basic types of medical research:

  • Epidemiological research looks at diseases, what causes them and what their effects are on people.
  • Behavioral studies examine the health effects of human behavior.
  • Health services research looks at how well people are able to access healthcare providers and health care, and how that affects the care they receive.
  • Clinical trials involve experiments and observations of the effects of interventions on health outcomes.

Clinical Trial Guide focuses on this last category—clinical trials. Before any new treatment, drug or even a medical device can be administered to the public or used for medical care, they must all go through clinical trials. Depending on the results of these trials, the new treatments must then be approved by various federal organizations, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Clinical trials may require many years of study to complete and can cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

What are the Types of Clinical Trials?

If you are seeking a clinical trial related to your particular condition, you are most likely looking for either a treatment trial or a quality-of-life trial.

  • Treatment trials study new drugs, combinations of drugs, or new approaches to surgical or radiation procedures.
  • Quality of life trials (also known as supportive care trials) look for ways to measure and improve the comfort (aka quality of life) for people with existing conditions or illnesses.

There are several other types of clinical trials, but those focus more on finding new ways to prevent, diagnose or screen for a particular disease. Though for all clinical trials, it is important to realize that getting in early is critical for certain states of the disease, it is equally important to assess the possible benefits and risks of the trial.

So How Do Clinical Trials Work?

Most of the greatest advances in medical science have developed from clinical trials. When most people think of clinical trials, drugs or vaccines immediately come to mind (especially during the era of COVID-19). By definition, clinical trials involve biomedical or behavioral research that studies new and existing interventions that could show promise in improving outcomes in disease, chronic medical conditions, and mental health disorders.
Branching out beyond pharmaceuticals, these interventions can include the use of new and existing medical devices, surgical techniques, diet changes, dietary supplements, lifestyle modifications, and mental health treatments. Often, clinical trials may study multiple interventions in combination, depending on the disease or condition.

Ultimately, clinical trials are research studies designed to show us what works and what doesn’t. They’re used for all types of diseases and conditions, one of the most common being various types of cancers. These studies will help to determine if new or even current treatments are more or less effective than others. It is an avenue used to study new ways to detect, diagnose, or measure diseases, or ideally, to learn how to cure or prevent them.

Clinical trials serve a significant purpose toward the progression of scientific research and medical practice when it comes to medical treatments and therapies. Without clinical trials, doctors today would not have the knowledge or capabilities to treat many of the diseases we currently face, and thanks to the collective research from several years past, many diseases are no longer a great concern or pose the threat that they once did.

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