What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials research determines how existing drugs and treatments can be used most effectively and explores promising new therapies. Trials answer questions such as:

  • Is it better for patients with various cancers to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or both?
  • How should patients with heart disease be best treated to reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes?
  • What are the benefits and risks of providing higher or lower levels of extra oxygen to very premature newborn babies?

Finding answers to these types of trials questions is what we do. Our work has led to important advances in patient care, which have resulted in better health outcomes for patients globally.

For example, thousands of lives are saved each year as a result of new cholesterol treatments, and patients are living longer, better-quality lives as a result of improved therapies for breast, lung, bowel and other cancers.

What kind of trials do we undertake?

The CTC conducts investigator-initiated collaborative clinical trials research across a diverse therapeutic areas, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neonatal health and diabetes. We have participated in nearly 200 investigator-initiated, cooperative-group clinical trials, and coordinated some of the largest randomised trials initiated by Australian investigators (LIPID and FIELD studies, each with over 9,000 patients). Over 80,000 patients have been randomised to these trials. 

The resources of multiple collaborative clinical groups have been consolidated through the CTC, ensuring a critical mass in specialised areas of expertise. This has helped our clinical trials program to grow in breadth and depth, particularly in oncology. All trials undertaken through the CTC are conducted strictly according to guidelines for clinical trials research and conduct, and are audited by regulatory authorities, sponsors and the CTC itself.

Who participates in a trial?

The CTC does not recruit participants to clinical trials directly. Trials are usually run through hospitals and other health service providers. To find out more about any trial or whether you can participate in one, please discuss this with your doctor. Comprehensive general information about clinical trials in Australia is available from www.australianclinicaltrials.gov.au. Trials being conducted in Australia can be found on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry website. Not all of these trials are currently recruiting patients.

Are you eligible for a trial?

Every clinical trial has eligibility criteria which must be met by participants. To find out more about any trial or whether you are eligible to participate in one, please ask your doctor. The ANZCTR website may also contain information about the trial and the eligibility criteria for participation. Participants are not normally paid to take part in a clinical trial, but may be reimbursed for some out-of-pocket expenses. Please refer to your treating clinical trial doctor or nurse if you have any specific questions about payment.

Further information

The Australian government lists research networks and support groups for particular disorders at www.australianclinicaltrials.gov.au/trial-websites. Most of these sites have helpful information, including relevant publications.

For scientific articles, you can search our Published Research page or PubMed. Trials being conducted in Australia can be found on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry. The search portal of the World Health Organization (WHO) allows you to search worldwide for trials that are being conducted.