Clinical trials are a key research tool for advancing medical knowledge and patient care. Clinical research is done only if doctors do not know whether a new approach works well in people and is safe, and which treatments or strategies work best for certain illnesses or groups of people.
Clinical trials are important for discovering new treatments for diseases, as well as new ways to detect, diagnose, and reduce the chance of developing the disease. Clinical trials can show researchers what does and doesn’t work in humans that cannot be learned in the laboratory or in animals. Clinical trials also help doctors decide if the side effects of a new treatment are acceptable when weighed against the potential benefits. Researchers don’t know what the results of clinical trials will be. (If they did, they wouldn’t have to do the trials!) This uncertainty can make it hard for a patient to decide to participate in a clinical trial. While in rare cases, patient volunteers have been hurt by the treatment or procedure on a clinical trial, millions of people have been helped because other people before them chose to participate in a trial that resulted in a new, more effective treatment.