Advocate Aurora Research Institute: What you should know about being in a clinical trial

Over the past two years, most of us have learned a great deal about the importance of clinical research. But chances are we still probably never considered joining a clinical trial. We may be glad they exist, but we're also glad someone else is participating.

Involving clinical trial participants who represent diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, age and other backgrounds is paramount to advancing health equity.

As Chief Research Officer for Advocate Aurora Research Institute, which has more than 500 clinical trials currently underway, I'm using this year's International Clinical Trials Day (May 20) to highlight the fact that anyone - healthy or sick, young or old - may have a role to play in advancing scientific knowledge and helping researchers find better treatments for others in the future.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are human research studies designed to evaluate a medical, surgical or behavioral intervention. Some trials test whether a new drug or device is safe and effective.

Others study whether a new treatment is better than the existing standard of care, whether a new diagnostic technique can detect disease earlier or whether a preventive measure can stop a health problem from developing.

Why do people participate in trials?

People participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons. Healthy volunteers want to assist in scientific discovery and offer hope to people who are suffering. Those who are ill also want to contribute to science and may want to gain access to a broader range of treatment options that may be available only in select programs across the country. They also may gain comfort from receiving one-on-one support and answers from clinical research coordinators.

I'm not sick. Would a trial make sense for me?

Of course, each of us fervently hopes we never need to enroll in a clinical trial as a patient. But beyond the critical role research plays in health care, scientists are constantly working to improve treatments and quality of life for many people, both sick and healthy. Here are a just a handful of recent clinical trials underway at Advocate Aurora:

• Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, joined a clinical trial studying a device that could potentially stop internal bleeding near the brain that can result from a severe head injury.

• Every Advocate Health Care cancer clinic in Illinois is participating in a clinical trial comparing immunotherapy drugs to chemotherapy in people with newly diagnosed glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive form of primary brain cancer in adults.

• Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, joined a clinical trial evaluating a device implanted in the heart that may reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, or afib.

• Every Advocate community cancer clinic in the state is also studying an investigational treatment for people with a fast-spreading type of breast cancer.

Why are participation rates lower than researchers would like?

Fewer than 1 in 20 cancer patients participate in clinical trials even though clinical trials are crucial to advancing cancer treatment.

Research shows that financial barriers, logistical concerns and restrictive eligibility criteria can lead to low rates of trial participation.

People may have misinformation about trials - or simply not know that the option exists at all. Moreover, these same barriers make those with lower incomes and individuals who identify as racial or ethnic minorities less likely to participate.

How are patients protected during clinical trials?

Clinical trials would not be possible without the thousands of volunteers who participate each year. Our participants' safety, comfort and wellness are our highest priority, and we are deeply committed to maintaining the highest professional and ethical research standards.

We take specific steps to protect the safety, health and welfare of our research participants while carefully communicating with them every step of the way. These efforts include a thorough internal review and approval process for every research project.

It's important to note that all treatments examined in clinical trials go through years of rigorous evaluation before beginning testing on people. Trials are free for patients. Hospitals that participate in clinical trials receive funding from the government and pharmaceutical and device companies to cover the cost of the treatment or procedures. Patients can choose to participate in a study or leave a trial at any time.

Our promise to you

Clinical trials at Advocate Aurora Health - and the people who participate in them - are helping us rewrite the book when it comes to treating cancer, cardiovascular disease and many other serious conditions.

We provide you with all the information you need during the informed consent process. This information includes an explanation of the treatment being tested and your rights as a clinical trial participant. Our clinical research coordinators - nurses and research experts who specialize in working with trial participants - are with you from start to finish.

Lastly, we want to thank and celebrate all our clinical trials participants for their contribution to science and discovery, and our clinical trials research team for their invaluable support of our research mission. Happy International Clinical Trials Day.

Learn more about clinical trials at Advocate Aurora by visiting

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