Clinical research is a form of medical research which involves the study and use of human subjects to further scientific knowledge. One of the most classic forms of clinical research is the clinical trial, in which a group of patients are used to test a new medication, treatment, or device. Because this type of research involves the use of human subjects, it is accompanied with a number of legal and ethical issues, and studies must be carefully vetted by ethics committees and government organizations which supervise medical research.
People can conduct clinical research for a number of reasons. It may be used to test a new treatment or approach to disease, which can include preventative care, advanced screening techniques, new diagnostic methods, or supportive care for people with terminal illness. The research can also be used to gather demographic information about particular groups of people, or in epidemiology studies which track the spread of disease through various human populations.
In addition to using actual humans, clinical research can also involve samples of tissue from living humans. The tissue may be healthy or diseased, and it can come from a variety of sources, ranging from pathologists to voluntary donors. A cancer researcher, for example, might work with samples of various cancers from real patients, usually with identifying information obscured for patient privacy and to ensure the integrity of the trial.
When a researcher puts together a clinical study, he or she must provide justification for the study, showing that it is necessary, and he or she must show how patients in the study will be cared for and protected. Informed consent is usually critical, so that patients involved in clinical research understand exactly what is going on and how they may be affected by the trial, as are ethical reviews to determine that the nature of the study does not cross ethical boundaries.
For universities, government health agencies, and scientific laboratories, this type of research is critical to the advance of the sciences and medicine. Clinical research is constantly ongoing all over the world to give researchers more insight into a variety of issues, from the safety of a new eczema drug to the best palliative care for cancer patients. Patients who participate in clinical research can sometimes get access to state of the art treatments and health care, while also bettering the cause of humans as a whole. Information about ongoing trials is often available from doctors and academic institutions which perform clinical research.