International Clinical Trials Day

Celebrating our clinical trials history with oranges

Today, CTC is celebrating International Clinical Trials Day. We like to keep in touch with our history, so we are celebrating with oranges.

Lessons in history

Each year the world celebrates International Clinical Trials Day on 20 May. On this day in 1747, Scottish naval surgeon, James Lind, started his trial, which made the link between citrus fruit and scurvy prevention; it was the first famous clinical trial.

In Europe in the late middle ages, scurvy came to prominence on the surge of advances in shipbuilding and worldwide exploration to open new trade routes and new colonies. Many mariners suffered from ulcers that did not heal, weakness, easy bruising and bleeding gums. On some voyages, scurvy claimed the lives of most of the sailors.

On a particularly challenging voyage in 1746-1947, James Lind was at a loss as to how to treat his sick crew. He was aware that acidic substances sometimes helped. He randomly allocated 12 seamen to

  • apple cider
  • dilute sulphuric acid
  • vinegar
  • seawater
  • oranges and lemons
  • a spice paste and barley water

and all to the same usual diet.

The sailors allocated fruit recovered within days. It was a spectacular result, which Lind published inA Treatise on the Scurvyin 1753.

Lind was not able interpret the mechanism of the cure. The British Admiralty declined to use Lind's evidence-based remedy in favour of other untested, ineffective therapies. Scurvy is now known to be a nutritional deficiency caused by lack of vitamin C.

Clinical trials at CTC

Each year, international Clinical Trials Day raises awareness of research in health care and highlights the partnerships among patients, health care practitioners and researchers.

Unlike James Lind, whose discovery about citrus did not make it into practice for 50 years, we know that research findings must apply to patient care. At CTC we strengthen and build Australia's clinical trial capacity through national and international collaborations, education and training programs, and being a champion for translational research that informs the laboratory science-clinical research-clinical practice continuum.

Our goal is better health care through research.

20 May 2017