What is a Clinical Trial?
Many people have heard of clinical trials or research studies, but most don’t really know what they are. Or how they can change the life of a patient.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment or device is safe and effective for people. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials follow strict scientific standards, called protocols, which protect patients and help produce reliable study results.
“We are one of the leaders in cancer clinical trials,” says David Waterhouse, MD, MPH, medical oncologist with OHC. “This is important because it means cancer patients in this area have access, right here where they live, to state of the art treatments not yet available to the general public.”
Take for example a patient who lives in Indiana who is in a clinical trial testing a new medication for lung cancer cause by a mutant gene. He is responding very positively to the medication. Had his OHC doctor not informed him of this clinical trial, he wouldn’t be building a new fence for his back yard.
The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas. If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. If this new approach continues to show significant promise, doctors then test the treatment in people, usually in 3 phases.
In Phase I clinical trials, researchers test a new drug or treatment in a small group of people (20-80) for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, identify side effects and search for efficacy signals.
In Phase II clinical trials, the study drug or treatment is given to an even larger group of people (100-300) to better quantitate its effectiveness and to further evaluate its safety.
In Phase III studies, the study drug or treatment is compared to commonly used treatments and collect information that will allow the drug or treatment to be used safely.
You may be able to take part in clinical trials that include investigational drugs, diagnostic tests, or preventative measures. This helps in the development of new medicines and treatments that may offer better care for life-threatening and chronic diseases.
“Whatever your reason for participating, it’s important to think about a clinical trial when you are first diagnosed, not later in the process,” adds Dr. Waterhouse. “Just ask your doctor if there are any available for your specific condition.”
For more information or to see a list of open trials, go to our clinical trials page.