Advances in healthcare are impossible without human testing. Whether a treatment is a vitamin, a cancer drug, a surgical procedure, a new way to detect disease or a medical device, at some point it has to be tested on people.

Human studies, or clinical trials, are sponsored or funded by a variety of sources such as physicians, hospitals, foundations, pharmaceutical companies, voluntary or advocacy groups, universities and government agencies. Ideas for clinical trials usually come from researchers. These researchers will test new therapies or procedures in the laboratory and in animal studies, and the most promising results move on to clinical trials.

Choosing to participate in a clinical trial is an important personal decision. Carefully conducted clinical trials are the fastest and safest way to find whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective. Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research. All clinical trials have guidelines about who can participate. Researchers have protocols with defined criteria to identify appropriate participants and maintain safety standards.

In addition to the trials developed at UNC, there are national trials that you can learn about by visiting the National Institutes of Health website at