Health & Medicine

Medical trials can take place in your community

Laura Martin, Baptist Health
Laura Martin, Baptist Health Herald-Leader

When you think of medical research trials or studies, do you picture them taking place at large universities in faraway cities? Would you be surprised to learn that community hospitals — perhaps the one where you gave birth to your child or your mom had surgery — conduct research trials with local patients who might benefit from the latest therapies without having to travel long distances?

Research studies are often done in community hospitals that might offer a more diverse population of patients for their trials.

Patients may stay in their own communities and continue to see physicians and staff they are familiar with while taking advantage of new drugs, devices and other therapies being studied nationally.

A clinical trial often starts with a scientific idea based on results of laboratory research. Most funding comes from the government's National Institutes of Health or from the pharmaceutical and device industries.

Together, doctors and researchers design the studies and how they will work. Clinical trials that test new drugs or other treatments are done in phases. Each phase has a different purpose and helps researchers answer different questions. If a new drug or treatment does not seem promising in the early phases, the research might be stopped.

Choosing to join a clinical trial is something you, those close to you and your medical professionals should decide together. If a clinical trial is an option you want to pursue, it is important to understand that each trial or study has a screening process based on a set of eligibility requirements. Not everyone will be accepted into every trial.

Clinical trials are reviewed and approved at a national level and again locally by an Institutional Review Board, or IRB, that reviews clinical studies to make sure they are conducted safely and fairly. IRBs often include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, patients, patient advocates and people from the community.

Participants receive careful medical attention from research teams that might include physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and other health professionals who are leaders in their fields. Studies often utilize the most innovative, cutting-edge investigational drugs and devices while allowing patients to stay in their own communities and continue to see their existing health care providers.

Because heart disease is so prevalent in Central and southeastern Kentucky, the Lexington Cardiac Research Foundation at Baptist Health Lexington plays a significant role in the development of cardiovascular treatments and participates in many of these national-level research programs.