Understanding the Importance of Clinical Trials - Wake Research

Understanding the Importance of Clinical Trials

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are the most important part of all medical advancements and research. They are designed to test and study the safety and effectiveness of investigational medications and treatments. Clinical trials study different things – some trials look at new treatments for chronic diseases and conditions (like a medical device or a drug), while some trials test ways to diagnose diseases early or possibly prevent them.

Why are clinical trials important?

Clinical trials are an essential part of making sure the drugs and medical treatments we all use are safe and effective. They are also extremely important in finding new and better treatments and in helping make life more comfortable for people with chronic diseases.

“Before your doctor can write you a prescription and your treatments are available at your pharmacy, every drug must go through clinical trials to demonstrate it is safe and effective, compared to a placebo or to existing therapies,” Dr. Marieke Cajal-Berman, director of patient engagement for Wake Research, said.

illustration of a doctor interviewing a patient | Wake Clinical Research

“Clinical trials are conducted to measure how well a medication or therapy performs when used to treat a certain condition,” she said. “They could be testing a drug for a condition that currently does not have any available treatment, or testing a drug that might work better than currently available treatments or have less side effects.”

Who can participate in clinical trials?

People who have a disease or other chronic medical condition can participate in clinical trials, as well as healthy individuals looking to help contribute to research.

People participate in clinical trials for different reasons. Some people participate to try a new treatment when existing therapies haven’t worked, or if there is no existing treatment for their condition. Other people who are healthy might participate to help advance research of diseases they may have in their genetics or just be a part of discovering new treatments.

illustration of a doctor interviewing a patient in a research setting | Wake Clinical Research

“Some volunteers participate to better understand their conditions through the tests offered at no cost as part of the trial, to try new treatments when they cannot tolerate or afford current ones, or to help advance research for other patients with the same condition and future patients,” Dr. Cajal-Berman said.

Should you participate in a clinical trial?

Clinical trials could not exist without volunteers, and there are many benefits to participating in a clinical trial. Participants in clinical trials play an active role in their own health care; they gain access to cutting-edge research treatments before they are available to the general public, and by participating they help contribute to the development of new and important treatments.

“Progress in medicine cannot happen without the help and participation of our volunteers,” Dr. Cajal-Berman said. “Patients are also compensated for their time and travel and accompanied by a doctor through the whole process.

But before participating in a clinical trial, you will need to qualify. There are often specific criteria for meeting the qualifications of a clinical trial. If you decide to apply to a clinical trial, you will be asked a series of questions in a pre-screening interview. Sometimes, a second screening will take place to make sure you meet the qualifications for the trial. If you do, then you will be able to be a part of the trial.

What is the current work being done in clinical trials?

There is a lot of very important research currently being done in clinical trials. Some of the conditions and treatments being studied are:

  • Drug treatments and genetic biomarker studies for long term diseases
  • Vaccinations and drugs for COVID-19
  • Immunotherapy treatment for cancer and other diseases

Every single drug and treatment used in healthcare today was first tested through a clinical trial. Clinical trials help ensure drugs and treatments are safe, effective, and can better the lives of individuals who are suffering from diseases now and in the future.

To view the currently enrolling studies at Wake Research, visit our Current Studies page .


  1. “What Are Clinical Trials and Studies?” National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 17, 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-clinical-trials-and-studies.
  2. “About Clinical Trials.” About Clinical Trials | Understanding Clinical Research Studies. ClinicalConnection.com, 2015. https://www.clinicalconnection.com/about-clinical-trials.
  3. “What Is Clinical Research.” CenterWatch. WCG CenterWatch, 2020. https://www.centerwatch.com/clinical-trials/overview.
  4. “Clinical Trials News, Articles: The Scientist Magazine®.” Clinical Trials News, Articles | The Scientist Magazine®. The LABX Media Group. Accessed February 7, 2020. https://www.the-scientist.com/tag/clinical-trials