What is a Clinical Study?

Studies of promising new or experimental treatments in human patients are known as clinical studies or clinical trials.

Researchers seek to answer questions such as the following:

  • Does this treatment work?
  • Does it work better than the one we're now using?
  • What side effects does it cause?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Which patients are most likely to find this treatment helpful?

All studies provide at least the current standard for treatment but there can be some risks.

No one involved in the study knows in advance whether the treatment will work and what unexpected side effects may occur. That’s what the study is designed to discover.

Most side effects will disappear in time and rarely are they permanent or life threatening.

Taking part in any clinical study is completely voluntary. Your doctors and nurses will explain the study to you in detail and will give you a form to read and sign, indicating your understanding and your desire to take part. This is known as giving your informed consent.

Even after signing the form and after the study begins, you are free to leave any time you want for any reason.

Taking part in the study does not prevent you from getting other medical care you may need. Taking part in clinical studies may help you directly, or may help other patients in the future.

Clinical studies being conducted at Virginia Mason include those sponsored by the federal government (also called cooperative studies because they link doctors and patients around the country into a single study), those sponsored by pharmaceutical or biotechnological industries, and those that are designed and conducted by physicians on staff at Virginia Mason.