Clinical Research and Clinical Trials

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What is clinical research?

Clinical research is a type of study of clinical or biomedical questions through the use of human subjects. Clinical research studies do not necessarily all involve medical treatments or experimental therapies. Clinical research can include observational studies, in which people are followed over a period of time to determine health outcomes. Clinical research may also be used to determine the usefulness or safety of a new diagnostic procedure or drug treatment. Clinical research studies are planned in advance and follow a defined protocol. Epidemiologic studies examine specific populations to clarify how often a disease occurs or is found in a given group (the incidence and prevalence), the individual factors that can cause or worsen disease progression, and the types of health and lifestyle decisions that people make. Clinical trials (see below) are one important type of clinical research.

Why is clinical research important?

Clinical research is important in order to develop new therapies and diagnostic procedures as well as to understand how diseases begin and progress. Observational studies may help identify risk factors for the development of a particular disease, such as the association between smoking and lung cancer. Outcomes-based research can help doctors identify the most effective therapies and treatments for a number of conditions. Another aspect of clinical research is the development of new technologies for use in health care, ranging from surgical tools and materials to hearing aids and artificial limbs. In cancer treatment, virtually all advances in the care of cancer patients has occurred as a result of clinical research.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2015

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