Medical heroes can be found everywhere. They are mothers and fathers, siblings, children, friends, colleagues and ordinary people who have chosen to give the extraordinary gift of participation in clinical research. Their decision to participate is a selfless act, an altruistic gift. While this act always carries risk and there is a chance that participation may bring hope, it is likely that it will bring no direct personal benefit.

Seeing progress in the long-term

Yet through their participation and partnership with industry, government, foundations and advocacy groups, as a society we gain valuable knowledge about the nature of disease, its progression and how—or how not—to treat it. Future generations are ultimately the direct recipients of this gift.

For the vast majority of people, the idea of clinical trials never enters their consciousness. Most people stumble upon clinical trials when faced with the sudden and often unexpected prospect of a serious and debilitating illness for which no medication is available or adequate.

“At the present time, nearly 4,000 experimental drugs and therapies are in active clinical trials.”

Typically patients, their families, friends and their health care providers must gather information quickly to make decisions about whether to participate. This rush to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of clinical trials invariably feels like an overwhelming and confusing undertaking.

Spreading awareness of trials sooner

Fortunately, however, there are nonprofit organizations that aim to provide outreach and education to those individuals considering participation in clinical trials, as well as their support network. By raising general awareness, educating patients and the public, these resources enhance the experiences of a study volunteer during and after clinical trial participation.

This special supplement also plays an important part in raising awareness and literacy. It is a reference resource offering an introduction to clinical trials and to thanking the millions of participants and professionals within the clinical research community who, together, help advance medical knowledge.

By improving public and patient literacy, more patients are empowered with knowledge and a sense of control—and are ultimately engendered to make more informed decisions.

At the present time, nearly 4,000 experimental drugs and therapies are in active clinical trials. And that number continues to grow as improvements are made in detecting disease, in discovering new medical innovations and in understanding and addressing the root cause of acute and chronic illnesses. At the very heart of all of this promising, life-saving and life-altering activity are medical heroes to whom we owe our deepest appreciation for their profound gift of participation.