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by Cheryl Zinar RN, BSN   |   May 18, 2021

The Real Heroes in Medical Advancements: Clinical Research Trial Participants

Long hours in the research and development lab. Nights spent mulling over possible therapeutic solutions. All of the painstaking work put into the discovery of new therapies and treatments rely on one crucial piece of the equation when it comes to bringing a new drug or therapy to market: clinical research trial participants. Without their courage and willingness to pay it forward, medical advancements would not happen.

What is Clinical Research?

At the heart of all medical advances is clinical research. Researchers look at new ways to prevent, detect or treat disease. The treatments come in all different forms. They may be new drugs, a combination of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. The ultimate goal for clinical research trials is to determine if a new test or drug treatment works and is safe, and if it improves the quality of life for people with chronic illness. 

Clinical trials go through four phases. In phase I, researchers test the safety of the product or method on healthy volunteers; phase II tests for safety and effectiveness; phase III compares the new treatment or method to what is currently in use; and phase IV follows the drug after it is licensed and approved by the FDA to track its safety and gain more information about its risks, benefits and optimal use.

Prostate Clinical Research

As Director of Clinical Research at MidLantic Urology, I get to take part in this journey of discovery every day. I have the pleasure of seeing prostate cancer patients live longer and enjoy a better quality of life – not just by curing disease, but also as new treatments with fewer side effects are implemented. Patients can enroll in clinical trials for prostate cancer that range from testing new medications, new surgical techniques and different types of radiation treatments.

One of the most important pieces to the clinical research puzzle is that this research expands beyond end-stage disease. Clinical research is present at every step in the prostate cancer patient journey, and it can help provide treatments and medications early on in diagnosis, as well as catch prostate cancer growth with new detection scans.

Prostate Cancer Advancements through Research

Cheryl Zinar and Dr. Laurence Belkoff at ZERO’s 2019 Run/Walk in Philadelphia, PA.

In my career alone, I have seen the field change immensely through the lens of a clinical researcher. Back when I started in 2002, the only treatments available for men with prostate cancer were hormone injections, orchiectomy and chemotherapy after initial treatment or diagnosis. Now, there are new oral medications and immunotherapies to help your own body fight the prostate cancer in a much less invasive manner. 

Participating in Clinical Trials

The unsung heroes in each of these advancements, however, are the clinical trial participants. People choose to participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons. Many healthy volunteers participate in order to help others and contribute to scientific discovery. Some volunteers with illnesses wish to receive the newest treatment and to have the additional care and attention from the clinical trial staff acutely managing their prognosis.

Regardless of the reason, participants of all backgrounds are needed as some conditions are more prevalent within certain populations. Whatever your age, race, gender or background – clinical trials need YOU!

Clinical trials offer hope for many people and an opportunity to help researchers find better treatments for others in the future. Without clinical trial patients, research would stall, new treatments would never get approved and medical advancements would not happen. Remember to thank them for their tremendous service as we work together to ZERO out prostate cancer.

April of 2021, Dr. Laurence Belkoff of MidLantic Urology joined us for our webinar “Clinical Trial Diversity – A Physician and Patient Perspective. You can watch it here: