What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are a type of research that looks at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Doctors rely on these studies to know that medical treatments work for all people.

Tomorrow’s medical treatments could help you, your loved ones, and your community. Northwestern University and Chicago Public Library have teamed up to provide information and answer questions about clinical trials. We hope this website can help you talk to your doctor about clinical trials.

Click a question below to learn more:

What is clinical research?

Click on this video to hear a clinical trial recruiter talk about clinical research.

Clinical research is the study of health and disease in humans.

  • Clinical research is important to discover and improve disease screening, treatment, and healthcare.
  • Both healthy people and people with an illness are important to clinical research.
  • Research staff need your permission (verbal or written) before you can take part in research.

What are the different types of clinical research studies?

Click on this video to hear a clinical trial recruiter explain the different types of clinical research studies.

There are many different types of clinical research studies. Some studies:

  • Test medications in people with disease (treatment trials).
  • Look for ways to prevent disease (prevention studies).
  • Test better ways to identify a disease (diagnostic studies).
  • Try to find the best way to detect a certain disease or health program (screening studies).
  • Find ways to improve quality of life for those with long-lasting diseases (behavioral studies).
  • Learn who gets a disease by researching how genes and illness may be related (genetic studies).
  • Look to find patterns and causes of disease in groups of people (epidemiological studies).

Clinical Trial Myths vs. Truths

Click on this video to hear a clinical trial recruiter summarize clinical trial myths and truths.

  • Myth: Once I join a study, I cannot change my mind.
    Truth:
    You can change your mind and leave the study at any time.
  • Myth: If I donate samples, someone will be able to identify me.
    Truth: Samples do not contain personal information. Special codes are used to label donated samples.
  • Myth: If I do not get placed into the treatment group, I will not get the right medicine or treatment for my disease.
    Truth: You will always receive the best available care for your condition, regardless of which group you are placed into.
  • Myth: In a clinical trial, I am a guinea pig.
    Truth: Researchers follow rules to ensure you are always treated with respect and receive quality care, maximum benefits, and minimal harm.