GHUCCTS

Let’s Talk About Clinical Research

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Two women members of the GHUCCTS Participant Advisory Board sitting next to each other during a meeting, reviewing paperwork

Clinical research has led to finding new and better treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and many others. Since COVID-19 emerged, there has been a worldwide focus on research to better prevent, diagnose and treat this disease. News outlets are full of reports from these research studies. This website explains some of the terms you might hear. Scroll down to continue.

Variety of medical pills in different shapes, sizes, and colors

How can placebos help find effective treatments for diseases like COVID-19?

When there is no known treatment, research may compare a new treatment to a placebo. This approach may be used to try to find a COVID-19 vaccine. In this case, some people would get the vaccine and some would get the placebo.

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Two women talking to each other across an information table at a resource fair

What questions should I ask before signing up for a clinical research study?

As the world deals with COVID-19, researchers are looking for the best ways to prevent and treat this new disease. Research volunteers will be essential to getting answers. There are important questions to ask before signing up for a clinical research study.

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Image of a doctor holding a clipboard, reading to a female trial participant

Why do we need diverse groups of research volunteers?

Having diverse groups gives confidence that research results will apply to a wide range of people. This will help make sure everyone can get the treatment that is best for them.

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Herman Shaw speaks as President Bill Clinton looks on during ceremonies at the White House on May 16, 1997, during which Clinton apologized to the survivors and families of the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Don’t let the past hold back the future of health

From 1932 to 1972 a research study, now known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, caused harm to black men. Men in this study were not told they had syphilis. When penicillin was discovered as a cure, they were not given the treatment.

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We hope this site will prompt more conversations about the COVID-19 research news. Being well-informed can help you make the choices that are best for you.

Share what you learn here with others. Engage with us on social media and Let’s Talk About Clinical Research.

This website was created to give people ways to:

  • Understand research terms that may be reported in the news
  • Use research information to make personal health choices
  • Be informed about how people who take part in research are protected  
  • Know how to find a research study
  • Think about questions to ask before joining a research study

This website is for educational purposes only. Examples of how clinical research applies to COVID-19 may be used, but this is not a COVID-19 information source. For answers to questions about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health websites. If you are searching for a clinical trial, please visit the recruitment section of our website.

Available Blog Posts

How do people find clinical trials for COVID-19 and other conditions? | The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve every day. Many organizations are working to find the best way to address this disease. Clinical trials will help find the best ways to prevent and treat this infection.

I heard there was a Phase 1 study to find a vaccine for COVID-19. What are the phases of a clinical trial? | The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with the U.S. Government and international partners to learn about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), find treatments, and to create a vaccine.

What questions should I ask before signing up for a clinical research study? | As the world deals with COVID-19, researchers are looking for the best ways to prevent and treat this new disease. Research volunteers will be essential to getting answers. There are important questions to ask before signing up for a clinical research study.

How are participants protected in research? | Research to find ways to prevent and treat COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) can’t be done without the people who volunteer to participate. Making sure research is safe for the people who take part is a top priority for researchers. All research with humans must be approved before it starts. The group that reviews human research is called the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

How can anecdotal information help medical research? | The CDC has guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Researchers are looking for the best ways to prevent and treat this disease. Many ideas have surfaced in the news and on social media. People are asking, “What really works?” Some of the answers may start with anecdotal information.

What is randomization? How can it help in COVID-19 clinical trials? | Clinical trials find new and better ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat illness. These studies find out if new medical products really work. They also make sure the products are safe for most people to use. Some clinical trials for COVID-19 will use randomization.

Henrietta Lacks changed history in more ways than one | In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. Her cells were used for research without her consent.

Why do we need diverse groups of research volunteers? | Having diverse groups gives confidence that research results will apply to a wide range of people. This will help make sure everyone can get the treatment that is best for them.

Don’t let the past hold back the future of health | From 1932 to 1972 a research study, now known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, caused harm to black men. Men in this study were not told they had syphilis. When penicillin was discovered as a cure, they were not given the treatment.

What has changed since Tuskegee? | Shocking examples of research abuse prompted gradual changes in the way people are protected. The U.S. Office of Human Research Protections was established to protect the rights, welfare, and well-being of research participants. Many safeguards are in place today.

How can placebos help find effective treatments for diseases like COVID-19? | When there is no known treatment, research may compare a new treatment to a placebo. This approach may be used to try to find a COVID-19 vaccine. In this case, some people would get the vaccine and some would get the placebo.


GHUCCTS is a research program in the DC Metropolitan area that seeks to improve human health. Learn more about what we do here.

This resource is created by GHUCCTS. The purpose is to educate the public about clinical trials. This information is not a substitute for talking with a health care provider. It cannot help to diagnose or treat a medical problem.  This material should not be used as legal advice. No advice will be given for products, treatments or services will be recommended. No specific clinical trials will be promoted. New facts about COVID-19 may be published after this material is written or read.


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Responses to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve in the greater Washington DC area, we are following the directives of our respective universities and institutions. As a result, most GHUCCTS physical offices are closed and we have shifted to virtual support for our research faculty, staff and trainees. Our Clinical Research Units at Georgetown University Hospital and Howard University Hospital remain open for ongoing studies that require scheduled visits for already enrolled patients, but not for new enrollments or new protocols at this time.

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COVID-19 National and Global Resources

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Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC has information about how you can protect yourself, your families, and what you should do if you are sick.

Visit CDC

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The NIH has information on the latest COVID-19 research developments, training for healthcare workers, and updates on what scientists are learning about the virus.

Visit NIH

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World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO has information on the global impact of COVID-19, how countries are addressing the virus, and advice for international travel.

Visit WHO

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