Several of our medical services, including internal medicine, neurology, cardiology and oncology, participate in clinical trials. If you would like information about current trials and whether your pet may be eligible to participate, please contact your VHC veterinarian.
A clinical trial is a research study in which animals with a medical condition are enrolled in a systematic manner to evaluate a promising new therapy. Well-designed clinical trials can answer questions about preventing, detecting and treating disease that may help animals in the future.
Trials are designed to minimize risk to the participants, but drug trials often involve new drugs that may not have been used in companion animals, and the extent of possible toxicity is not known. When we are evaluating new drugs, we wish to determine whether there is any unexpected toxicity, how effective the new treatment is, the conditions in which the treatment is most effective and how the new treatment compares to the standard of care, if one exists.
This phrase is used to describe the treatment that is most commonly used for a given condition or disease by most veterinarians in practice. Standard of care may be determined by past clinical trials or may be the result of opinions formed when treating animals over time. In the absence of good-quality, controlled clinical trials, or in the event that properly designed trials have not found a treatment that benefits the patient, there may not be a standard of care established by the veterinary community for a given disease.
Depending on the phase of research, various questions may have been answered. Preclinical work may include research with cell culture or rodents, and new drugs have typically been given to healthy animals before they are offered to unhealthy animals in order to determine expected side effects and a general understanding of dose and safety.
Owners should be well-informed prior to making a decision about clinical trial enrollment. It is important to know that enrollment in clinical trials is entirely voluntary and pet owners can choose to withdraw at any time. However, some treatments happen only once, so there may not be an opportunity to withdraw from treatment. Additionally, if the clinician determines that a pet should no longer be on a clinical trial, they may recommend that the pet exit the trial.
The following questions may help owners make a decision that is right for them and their pet:
- What is the purpose of this trial?
- Who is eligible?
- What tests must be done to determine if my pet is eligible?
- How much of a time commitment does the trial involve?
- How often are visits required?
- Must all treatments and monitoring be done at the Veterinary Health Center?
- How long will each visit take?
- What will I be required to do at home?
- Can I withdraw my pet from the trial at any time?
- Whom should I contact if I have questions or concerns during the trial?
- What are the expected side effects?
- What are the costs?
There are many benefits to enrolling in a clinical trial. A new treatment is proposed because basic research has suggested that it might be more successful than what is currently recommended. Sometimes our theories don’t prove to be correct, but sometimes we discover a new and effective treatment for a disease.
Beyond therapeutic reasons, there are often financial reasons to enroll in a study. Please be aware that in many cases the pet owner is responsible for the costs of initial evaluation. When clinical trials are offered, we often are able to subsidize the cost of treatment once a pet has been identified as a good candidate.
Many people enroll themselves or their pets in trials because it allows us to help not only the patient but also future patients. Research in animals can sometimes benefit people and vice versa; this is the concept of One Health across species.
Your participation in a clinical trial is of great value to us. It is important to abide by all rules of the trial in order to generate valid results. Never give your pet any medication, even over-the-counter medication, without first consulting the clinical trials service. Always provide complete information about your pet’s exposure to other animals, medications and environments before, during and after the trial. Always inform us of changes in your pet’s health, even if you do not think it is relevant. If it helps you, write details down between visits and bring this list with you to the next visit. That way we can decide what information is relevant.
Lastly, it is important to have complete data in a study, including follow-up information. Please keep in touch after the study period has finished. If you move during the lifetime of a pet who participated in a study, please give us your new contact information.