Celebrating Clinical Trials Day

Clinical trials are the gold standard in medical research, used to test new treatments and medical devices to ensure they are safe and improve patient outcomes.

Each year on May 20, Clinical Trials Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of clinical trials. At Lawson Health Research Institute, our researchers, research staff and learners across London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s) are working daily to advance clinical trials for some of the most pressing health challenges.
“If you look at many areas of medicine, like cancer and cardiovascular disease, part of why those conditions have had dramatic improvements in outcomes over the last several decades is because of clinical trials,” says Dr. Amit Garg, Scientist at Lawson, Lead for the Kidney, Dialysis & Transplantation Research Program at ICES Western, and a Nephrologist at LHSC. 

Clinical trials can also provide patient participants with new treatment options and can demonstrate when existing treatments have applications for other diseases.

“We could not conduct clinical trials without patients participating in them,” adds Dr. David Palma, Associate Scientist at Lawson and Radiation Oncologist at LHSC. “A clinical trial is a very rigorous process where we carefully define a treatment and follow patients very closely with extra interventions and tests to see not only how the disease is responding to treatment, but also any effects on a patient’s quality of life.”

It also takes a team to make clinical trials a success, including the critical work of research coordinators, associates and assistants, adds Dr. Swati Mehta, Lawson Scientist based at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute.

Dr. Palma also notes that while clinical trials require investment to conduct them, they can ultimately lead to savings in the health system. 

“While the primary goal of a clinical trial is to improve or save lives, they often lead to cost savings down the road. Improving cure rates means people don’t need as much treatment and that can save the initial investment many, many times over,” Palma says. 

Looking ahead, work is ongoing to make clinical trials more efficient and equitable. 

“Eliminating specialized infrastructure would help make trials more equitable, so they are available in smaller communities and at distant sites that otherwise would not have access. Making study materials available in multiple languages and to anyone with accessibility issues can also help,” Garg adds.

“Future clinical trials will need to follow more pragmatic, adaptive study designs that allow us to evaluate therapies or interventions in a more realistic setting,” Dr. Mehta says. “These would also allow us to follow-up with patients that were potentially underrepresented in past research.”

According to researchers at Lawson, the future of clinical trials is bright with hundreds of trials currently underway at LHSC and St. Joseph’s with the goal of improving patient outcomes.