International Clinical Trials Day May 20 2017

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Clinical research is the key to understanding complex diseases and to developing safe medicines and techniques to combat these diseases.

Each year, International Clinical Trials Day (ICTD) is celebrated around the world on or near May 20 to commemorate the day that James Lind began what is believed to be the world's first controlled clinical trial against the deadly disease scurvy. In 1747, he developed the theory that citrus fruits cured scurvy and the results of his trial saved the lives of thousands of sailors!1

Over one hundred years after Lind's findings the concepts used in modern clinical trials began to fully emerge:1

1863: Placebos (non-harmful ‘dummy’ or non-effective medical treatments) were given to control groups to compare the results against those of the new drug being tested.

1923: The idea of 'randomization' was introduced. Randomization involves participants randomly receiving the new treatment or drug versus a placebo or the known 'standard' treatment. Blind clinical trials, where neither group knows which treatment they are receiving, also emerged in the 20th century. This process minimises biases potentially impacting on the results.

1944: 'Multicentre' clinical trials began. Multicentre trials are when the same protocol is used at various sites (often around the world) to provide wider testing and better statistical data. Results from such trials are more representative of the population.

1964: The Declaration of Helsinki, which outlines ethical codes for physicians and protects participants in clinical trials all over the world, was developed.

Effect of research on life expectancy

Life expectancy in Australia has improved dramatically for both sexes in the last century, particularly life expectancy at birth. Compared with their counterparts in 1881-1890, boys and girls born in 2013-2015 can expect to live around 33 and 34 years longer, respectively.2 Australia now has one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world, attributable to advances in science, medical research and public health policies.2

With regards to cancer specific survival, between 1984-1988 and 2009-2013, the 5-year relative survival from any cancer in Australia improved overall from 48% to 68%.3 This demonstrates a greater understanding of the different cancers and coincides with the availability of more treatments to combat them. It is important to note that survival rates vary considerably between patients and depend largely on the type of cancer and how advanced it is at the time of diagnosis. Cure is certainly possible for some patients and early detection remains key.

Clinical Trials


1. A Historic Timeline of Clinical Trials. Downloaded on 18/4/2017 from:

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Government. Downloaded on 18/4/2017 from:

3. Cancer In Australia Statistics, Australian Government. Downloaded on 18/4/2017 from:

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