How You Can Help Advance Medicine By Joining a Clinical Trial

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How You Can Help Advance Medicine By Joining a Clinical Trial

Has your physician mentioned to you the possibility of joining a clinical research trial? These carefully monitored trials are what make medical advancements possible. Thanks to participants in clinical trials, health care providers can save more lives every day and continue to improve national healthcare practice standards.

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In a clinical trial, medical researchers scientifically test new types of treatment, drugs or devices. The goal of a clinical trial, which is sometimes called a research study, is to find better ways to treat disease and medical conditions.

Clinical studies range from research on a new medicine to development of medical devices. Investigators in cardiovascular medicine conduct studies on everything from drugs to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life to development of a new and more efficient artificial heart valves.

Benefits of participation

By participating in a clinical trial, you can play an active role in your health care, have early access to new treatments, and receive careful medical attention from a research team, says cardiothoracic surgeon A. Marc Gillinov, MD.

You also have the great potential of helping others by being part of medical advancements for the future, Dr. Gillinov says.

“These trials play a major role in our ongoing effort to innovate and find the very best treatments and therapies for our patients,” Dr. Gillinov says. “Clinical trials offer hope to those with illness and an opportunity for others to get special attention for their health issue or disease.”

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Patient safety

Clinical trials are just a small part of the research that goes into developing a new therapy or medicine. So even though the new treatment may be considered experimental, there is a long track record established before the therapy is tried out in humans.

The therapy offered through a clinical trial has had to meet a rigorous set of criteria to make it this far, and researchers have good reason to think the treatment might offer a new option.

“One of the first questions people have about being part of a trial is about its safety,” Dr. Gillinov says. “You can rest assured that we are following rigorous standards to make sure that our clinical research trials are safe.”

Before participating in a clinical trial, prospective participants discuss the risks and benefits of the trial with the study coordinator and all their questions are answered.

If you decide not to participate in a trial, your care is not affected in any way, and other treatment options will be discussed.

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Close monitoring

Each trial is conducted according to a carefully designed plan — or protocol — that safeguards patients and seeks to answer very specific research questions.

A principal investigator, often a doctor, leads the study. The research team members monitor each patient’s health  over time to evaluate the outcomes of the research.

“When we ask our patients to participate in a trial, it is with their health care needs in mind,” Dr. Gillinov says. “And we invite you to ask questions and look at the data so the trial is right for you. When you participate in a study, you are helping us and yourself by advancing medical science.”

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