Celebrating the Advancement of Women’s Health Research this Clinical Trials Day
When you think of the history of clinical research, you’d be correct to let your mind wander first to the incredible impact that clinical trials have had on the advancement of medical knowledge in the 20th century and beyond. While it’s true that the guidelines governing modern clinical trials were established in 1938 and initiated by the FDA in 1961, you may be surprised to learn that clinical trials have been evolving for much longer. Clinical Trials Day, which is celebrated on May 20 every year, marks the anniversary of the day that a man named James Lind conducted his first randomized clinical study in 1747.
At M3 Wake Research, we are profoundly humbled to stand on the shoulders of the clinical researchers who have come before us. However, we understand that truly impactful research includes a spectrum of diverse participants. Our research trials aim to advance the health of everyone—especially those who were historically excluded from participating in clinical trials. This year, in honor of Clinical Trials Day and Women’s Health Awareness Month, we are exploring how clinical research has advanced research surrounding women’s health.
When Were Women First Included in Clinical Trials?
Women’s biology and health concerns of women are distinct from those of their male counterparts. However, from a scientific standpoint, this fundamental truism was neglected for decades before women were included in clinical research trials. It wasn’t until 1986 that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) instituted a policy that required women and minorities to be included in clinical research, and this wasn’t codified into law until 1993. Since that time, great strides have been made when it comes to advancing women’s health research.
How Do Clinical Trials Advance Women’s Health?
When women are included in clinical trials, researchers can study how medications and other interventions specifically affect their bodies. This can make medicines safer for women to consume. It can also evaluate the impact of medical interventions on women-specific outcomes, such as fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the hormonal changes accompanying menopause. Beyond this, one of the most profound ways in which clinical trials advance women’s health is how clinical trial participation grants women access to medical professionals who specialize in women’s health whom they otherwise would not have encountered.
What Types of Women’s Health Conditions Are Investigated Through Clinical Research?
Many medical conditions specific to women can be studied through clinical research. One of the most significant “wins” in recent years has been the development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which was introduced in 2006 to reduce the occurrence of cervical cancer. Since then, the National Cancer Institute reports that “studies and clinical trials have consistently shown that HPV vaccines are extremely effective at reducing infection with the types of the virus that can lead to cancer, as well as cervical precancers.”
In addition to this vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer in many women, clinical researchers have studied a host of other ways to improve women’s health, such as the effects of probiotic supplements on menopausal symptoms, oral contraceptive research, improving understanding of endometriosis, fighting urinary tract infections, and developing novel ways to treat breast cancer.