Blog: Clinical Trials: Sowing Seeds of Information and Soothing Patients' Concerns

Posted On 10/17/2013

Many people learn about clinical trials for the first time at the most vulnerable moment of their lives — in their doctor’s office, having just received a cancer diagnosis. No wonder that fewer than five percent of adult cancer patients go on to participate in a clinical trial.

We understand the hesitancy. It’s only human to be fearful of or cautious about things of which we’re uncertain or not fully informed. But sometimes a clinical trial is the best option to save your, or a loved one’s, life. And the positive experience of participants is paramount to the success of well-designed clinical trials.

Clinical trials aren’t as unfamiliar as they might seem, either. They have always been with us. Knowingly or unknowingly, clinical trials dating back to the 18th century have formed the basis for many modern medical treatments. In 1747, James Lind compared and demonstrated the effect of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons on groups of soldiers to find cures for scurvy — a disease caused by deficiency of Vitamin C. Then, in 1884, Frederic Akbar Mohamed — the brain behind modern, collaborative clinical trials — differentiated essential hypertension from secondary hypertension by using different phases of clinical trials, which, at the time, was a novel idea.

Today, clinical trials are a widely used research tool to bring new medicines or devices to practice by testing their safety and efficacy. Clinical trials help scientists and health care providers understand illnesses and create novel, or better, ways to prevent, detect, or treat them.

The long, rigorous, step-by-step process of clinical trials begins with design ideas. Then begins a series of multiple reviews — from different Institutional Review Boards, ethical committees, health care providers, community members, and, oftentimes, specialists. These groups are neither related in any way nor do they have personal interest in results of the clinical trial. Finally, a successful clinical trial ends with the approval to go to market from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.

And in every clinical trial conducted today, participants are vigorously protected by standardized guidelines. They have legal protection through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and consent forms ensure the study poses no unnecessary risk and causes no undue harm to them. Volunteers are also given the right to withdraw from trials at any given time without any obligation.

One dilemma of clinical trials is that researchers predict outcomes or results on the basis of information collected earlier. Frequently, but not always, a patient’s result in a clinical trial coincides with the anticipated outcome. Sometimes, it may remain the same as before.

However, one outcome is certain: None of the information collected in clinical trials is gathered in vain. New research ideas will always emerge. Scientists will sow the seeds of the information to achieve more meaningful interventions, discover new medicines, and treat many more patients in the coming years. After all, this is how every cutting-edge treatment for numerous types of cancer and other ailments has come to be.

Above all, the safety, comfort, and wellbeing of study participants are of the utmost importance. In well-designed clinical trials, such as those conducted at Horizon BioAdvance, these are integral aspects, and they are never compromised.