The primary motive behind clinical trials is always to gain medical knowledge. A clinical trial may provide knowledge related to diagnosing or treating a disease or medical condition, or it may provide knowledge on how to prevent a medical condition from developing. In some cases, the clinical trial may focus simply on evaluating or improving the use of certain drugs, therapies, devices or surgical treatments.
Laboratory Research Has Its Limits
Clinical trials are only one step in the process of medical research. Before a clinical trial is ever initiated, preliminary research is done in the laboratory. When applicable, this research may include animal trials. Once laboratory research has provided significant evidence a treatment or therapy may have benefits for patients, a clinical trial can put the research to the real test.
For many years, man theorized about ways to accomplish flight. Just as in clinical trials, the ultimate test of the theories regarding flight was practical application. You can’t discover the unknown quantities in your theory without applying it in real life conditions. This is especially true when it comes to the human body.
What Can Be Learned in Clinical Trials
As much as medical knowledge has advanced, the human body remains a complex environment for study. Each individual is unique in multiple ways – their DNA, their blood type, their physical characteristics, what they consume and the environment they live in. Clinical trials include enough patients to gain a mix of characteristics within the group of participants. The unique health and lifestyle traits of each participant are carefully documented in the records of the clinical trial. These characteristics often provide helpful insights, such as how age or gender relates to the trial or whether diet or ethnicity impacts the results of the study.
One of the things learned through clinical trials over the years is what is termed “the placebo effect.” In the placebo effect or placebo response, participants are all provided with a treatment for their condition. The participants do not know which of them are receiving the actual drug being tested and who is receiving a harmless substitute, like a pill made of sugar. What science has learned through these types of “blind” studies is that the power of belief affects the bodies of some individuals. An article in Psychology Today explains the significance of this phenomena and its value in clinical trials:“At one time, researchers viewed the placebo effect as an impediment–a statistical annoyance that got in the way of objectively evaluating the efficacy of potentially legitimate therapies. That view has changed. The placebo effect is today seen as an important part of the healing process.”
Most prescription drugs and cancer treatments are the result of clinical trials. It is through these smaller trial groups that the medical community learns what works and what doesn’t, as well as what side-effects can be expected. DM Clinical Research is proud of the part we play in bringing new knowledge to the medical community. If you’d like to learn more about our clinical trials, please give us a call at 281.517.0550.