The medical community is constantly engaged in innovative clinical trials to revolutionize treatments for a wide range of health conditions. For example, as the race for a COVID-19 vaccine continues, medical professionals are preparing for urgent clinical trials. Although the number of clinical trials registered worldwide continues to grow year after year, many people don’t fully understand the objectives of clinical research. What is the purpose of a clinical trial? And how do clinical trials vary in their objectives?
What Is the Purpose of a Clinical Trial?
Clinical trials aim to improve medical protocol, which includes preventing, diagnosing, and treating disease. They might seem a bit mysterious, but in reality, all current medical protocols are the result of clinical trials.
Not only are clinical trials much more common than potential participants might realize, but also they have a serious impact on health care, contributing directly to the treatment of life-threatening conditions like cancer, heart disease, and even COVID-19. Put simply, clinical trials allow medical professionals to assess which new treatment and prevention methods work – and which are potentially harmful or ineffective. Research is divided into several different types and phases, both of which impact the purpose of a clinical trial.
Types of Clinical Trials
Clinical trials have different objectives based on the type of study. The FDA recognizes several different types of clinical trials:
- Preventive Trials: Preventative trials examine ways to prevent disease or disease complications.
- Screening Trials: Screening trials, or early detection trials, often involve testing medical equipment with the goal of detecting medical issues at earlier, more treatable stages.
- Diagnostic Trials: The purpose of diagnostic trials is to find better, less invasive ways to diagnose a medical condition. For example, a diagnostic breast cancer trial might aim to identify a superior mammogram technology.
- Treatment Trials: When most people think of clinical trials, they envision treatment trials. These studies involve finding medications and procedures that are more effective in the treatment of disease than the current medical standard.
- Quality of Life Trials: Quality of life trials involve identifying better supportive care for individuals with chronic health conditions like cancer or dementia.
- Genetic Studies: Genetic studies strive to improve the prediction of certain disorders by identifying and aiming to understand the ways in which genes and illnesses may be related to one another.
- Epidemiological Studies: Epidemiological studies seek to identify patterns, frequencies, causes, and risk factors of health conditions in specified populations.
To learn more, please review the FDA’s article entitled “What Are the Different Types of Clinical Research?”
Phases of Clinical Trials
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that every drug and procedure used in the treatment of disease undergo a series of clinical trials. These trials must take place prior to a treatment’s widespread medical use in the United States. Successful FDA-approved studies involve several phases, and the phase affects the purpose of each clinical trial:
- Phase 1 Trials: Phase 1 trials have one goal: to determine if a new treatment is safe. Typically, these trials involve a small number of patients.
- Phase 2 Trials: After treatments are found to be safe, they move on to Phase 2 trials. These trials evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.
- Phase 3 Trials: If a treatment is found to be both safe and effective, it moves on to Phase 3. During Phase 3 trials, a treatment is tested against standard treatments currently available. If the drug is more effective or has fewer side effects than the standard treatment, it may be evaluated for FDA approval.
- Phase 4 Trials: After the FDA approves a treatment, a Phase 4 trial may begin. These trials allow medical professionals to observe side effects that occur over time.
Depending on its phase, a clinical trial might have one of a few objectives: for example, to identify effective treatments for a life-threatening disease, or to determine if a new treatment is safe for the general public. By following strict standards, clinical trials can have a lasting impact on healthcare decision-making for both chronic and acute health conditions.
Have you ever thought about participating in a clinical trial? You could be a part of history! And QPS Missouri is looking for new participants. Since opening its doors in 1994, QPS Missouri has conducted over 1,000 FDA-regulated studies, paying out over $35 million to local participants. Your local participation could have a global impact, as QPS is an international leader in contract research with facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Our mission is to accelerate the development of drugs worldwide by enabling breakthroughs in pharmaceutical innovation. If you would like to join us in this mission, consider applying for a clinical trial.
To get started, you simply need to fill out an online application. Within 48 business hours, a recruiting coordinator will contact you for your pre-screening assessment. To learn more, please visit the QPS Missouri website, review the study participation process, or check out our list of FAQ.