The field of medical research is a vast and complex one. To learn more about the field and what it entails, refer to the following frequently asked questions:
What is clinical research? Clinical research is a study that is designed and performed in an effort to help doctors and other medical professionals to better detect, treat, and understand disease. This type of research is done either with actual human subjects or material that is derived from humans. These types of biomedical studies are critically important to future doctors, as they generally are a lengthy process and can help future medical professionals to screen and effectively treat patients with ailments such as cancer or heart disease.
What is a clinical trial? In some cases, any particular clinical research project can involve a drug or treatment plan that is part of the overall experiment. If this is the case, it is referred to as a clinical trial, and is simply a type of clinical research. Clinical trials involve four phases. Phase I involves giving the drug to a small group of people, usually less than 75, in order to test for side effects and efficacy. Phase II increases that sample size to about 100-300. Phase III involves a group of participants that number into the thousands. And, finally, Phase IV is after the drug has been approved by the FDA and additional data is collected based on public use.
What should I know before I consider volunteering for a clinical trial? There is a strict moral code within the field of medical research. Before considering any trial, be sure to get an informed consent which will outline any and all possible risks.
Clinical medical research adds to the knowledge that science uses to make educated decisions about what types of treatments and medicines are effective for patients. Scientists with advanced degrees in neuropathology, genetics, biology, and other topics conduct medical research and conduct trials to study the effects of procedures and test their hypotheses. Many medical schools and institutes have journals that publish the research in articles. Sometimes news stations will take interest in a study, but consulting the journal articles is the best way to find out exactly what the study reveals because reporters often fail to understand recent advances well enough to communicate them effectively to a general news audience. Journals often have councils that decide which trials and studies have the data that is sufficient to publish. These councils consist of experienced clinical medical scientists who have worked in labs and test sites for years. Since they have a grasp of the science behind the studies, they often choose the articles that are most relevant to today's medical technology. Conducting sound research, however, often requires more than just experience and intuition. Scientists use computer software and laboratory equipment to painstakingly test their ideas. Ideally, they remain objective so that they do not force the data to conform to their expectations. Many medical center studies use double blind experiments so that those conducting the research do not know what the hypothesis is. This makes it possible for them to perform the trials without letting their prejudices interfere with the true results.