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Understanding clinical trials in palliative care research 

Understanding clinical trials in palliative care research
Understanding clinical trials in palliative care research

John T. Farrar

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date: 16 May 2022

Advances in basic science, translational, and clinical research have led to rapid improvements in our understanding of many disease processes. The randomized clinical trial (RCT) has played an important role in validating the benefits and harms of therapies thought to be potentially useful based on scientific theory or clinical observation, and has become the ‘gold standard’ for the demonstration of efficacy. As in all clinical study designs, the RCT has strengths and weaknesses that must be understood to appropriately interpret the study results. While randomization of the intended study population is the primary strength of such trials, choice of the study population, control condition, outcome measures, analysis procedure, and procedures for blinding the study participants can all affect the results. Understanding the requirements of a valid RCT and what can potentially go wrong will improve the conduct of palliative care research and the usefulness of published information in the care of patients.

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