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Everything you wanted to know about clinical trials

Posted on May. 19, 2017 ( comments)
Dr. David Embrey with gait simulator

Tomorrow is Clinical Trials Day, celebrated around the world to honor the first randomized clinical trial performed on May 20, 1747. Read on to learn more about how clinical trials work and where to find them locally.

Think you’ve considered all your treatment options for your illness or condition? If you haven’t considered a research study, then maybe you should think again.

“In the day-to-day course of medical care, a lot of people don’t think of clinical trials as an option,” says Paul Amoroso, MD, medical director of the MultiCare Institute for Research & Innovation.

Research studies, also called clinical trials, are used to see if a new medicine, medical device or treatment is safe and effective. 

Studies take place over the course of a few weeks, months or even years, depending on what the study is trying to find out.

They typically require large numbers of participants, creating opportunities for hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals to participate.

All studies in the U.S. are approved by an Institutional Review Board, an independent committee that is responsible for reviewing and approving clinical trials before they are implemented at research sites.

Find a clinical trial near you

Something for everyone

Research studies cover the whole medical spectrum, from chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes to illnesses like cancer and heart disease. There are even preventive medicine studies, such as trials aimed at preventing future heart attacks in patients.

“All of the medicine developed for every medical condition you can think of has gone through clinical studies,” says Dr. Amoroso.

Of course, not every study is right for every patient. Each research study has a specific set of criteria for appropriate participants and potential participants usually go through a screening process to ensure they are the right fit.

It’s also important to remember that a research study can’t guarantee a cure or other positive outcome — it is research, after all.

However, it can offer several other potential benefits:

  • Patients may gain access to therapy not otherwise available
  • Patients may receive more personalized care, as study subjects are watched very closely
  • Depending on the study, patients may receive additional medical testing (such as labs and imaging) as well as medical devices (such as inhalers, glucometers and medications) free of charge.

The role of research in stroke care

In recognition of American Stroke Month, here’s a rundown of the role research studies play in stroke treatment.

“Research for stroke explores new therapies, drugs and devices to help in acute and chronic stroke treatments,” says Janey Barnhart, RN, CNRN, a clinical research nurse with the MultiCare Institute for Research & Innovation.

Currently the Research Institute is doing a stroke prevention study with a new carotid stent intervention. In the past, the Research Institute has done other carotid stent, intracranial stenting, cerebral aneurysm coiling, clot retrieval devices and a gait stimulator to help patients with ongoing leg weakness.

How do you participate in a stroke trial? For acute stroke, a research doctor typically approaches a patient or family at the time of the event if we have a drug or device they would qualify for, Barnhart says.

Chronic stroke issues that occur after the acute phase, such as physical weakness, speech difficulties and emotional fluctuations, are sometimes addressed in other studies that a patient can choose to enroll in.

Learn more about our open enrolling research studies for stroke.

Track the right trial

There are many resources available for finding research studies that might be right for you.

The Research Institute is a good resource for local studies.

Websites such as CenterWatch and the government clinical trial registry provide a comprehensive clearinghouse of clinical trials taking place globally, searchable both by location and condition.

And if you’re worried you're short of options because you don’t live in a major city or near a large teaching hospital, don’t be. The fact is, clinical trials take place in hospitals and medical clinics in many communities.

“A lot of patients just don’t know that studies are available locally,” Dr. Amoroso says. “But research does happen in the community setting.”

Research in your neighborhood

MultiCare Health System has been involved with clinical research studies for more than 25 years.

The Research Institute, formed in 2010, has consolidated all of the research efforts in our health care system into a single program and offers a wide range of research studies right here in the South Sound region.

Research covers a wide range of areas from asthma to women’s health, and we also perform clinical studies in conjunction with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Find a clinical trial near you

This article was originally published in April 2015 and updated in May 2017.

Posted in: Research
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