A clinical trial is a study led by a researcher that gathers individuals with a certain disease or condition and offers treatments for that condition. Those treatments may be established, or they may be new, and we don’t yet know how well they work. We need to try these treatments on enough people to know if something works or doesn’t work.

This is the way that medicine improves, by rigorously studying different diseases. The whole idea behind a clinical trial is for us to gain the knowledge to treat patients better.

Clinical trials give patients access to drugs, surgeries and medical devices for certain conditions. By offering clinical trials to our patients, we are ensuring that we can provide access to the latest treatments for our patients right here in our area, close to home.

The way we come up with drugs and treatments that work is really a long, complex process. It usually starts with a physician or scientist thinking of something, and testing it, then retesting it, and finally proving it. Then clinical trials allow us to efficiently test new drugs or devices or procedures in the shortest time and in the safest way possible.

Are clinical trials safe?

Safety is our first priority. We achieve safety by doing many things. First and most important is that all clinical trials at Lifespan are reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). This board is comprised of physicians, staff, and individuals from the general public. It is the IRB’s job to make sure that all our trials meet the most rigorous standards in ethics and safety.

The risks and benefits of any clinical trial are communicated to our patients in a way that they can understand completely so that they can make the process of informed consent. Informed consent means a patient knows exactly what a clinical trial will involve, what the benefits and risks may be, and voluntarily agrees to participate in the trial.

We have many layers of safety at Lifespan. The IRB is one process, but our electronic health record, and frequent checking of all procedures, medications and dosages are other measures that allow us to operate as safely as possible.

Before any clinical trial is offered at Lifespan it also must receive several levels of approval, which include applications to the Food and Drug Administration and other governmental entities.

Lifespan's Clinical Trial Portal

Visit Lifespan's clinical trial portal to learn more about the health system’s current clinical research studies.

Search Clinical Trials

What are the benefits for patients involved in trials?

One of the greatest benefits of participating in clinical trials is that they advance the knowledge of medicine. For individual patients, these trials offer access to a particular therapy that is not available outside of the trial. Trials allow for therapies for rare diseases and access to the latest, most advanced care possible. They offer treatments and drugs that are either of no charge to the patient or are appropriately billed to third parties such as insurance companies.

What is the impact of clinical trials on health care?

The impacts of clinical trials are substantial. We have had enormous advances in the treatments for such diseases as HIV, Hepatitis C and many forms of cancer. These advances all started with clinical trials studying these illnesses and different therapies.  

As a result, we are now able to cure Hepatitis C infection. Many new therapies in cancer have allowed patients to experience disease-free states and improved quality of life. HIV is now a chronic illness that can be treated very effectively with medications, some just once a day.

Our commitment to research

Lifespan takes clinical trials very seriously. We have an entire Clinical Research Center (CRC) comprised of staff that can take care of all regulatory and patient-related matters. Lifespan is invested in having all clinical trials on our web page in a searchable format so that our patients can easily find the clinical trials that are currently available at Lifespan. You can learn more about our clinical trials on our portal.

For more information on research and clinical trials at Lifespan, visit our website.

Dr. Bharat Ramratnam

Bharat Ramratnam, MD

Dr. Bharat Ramratnam is chief science officer at Lifespan and medical director of the Lifespan Clinical Research Center.