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Clinical Trials

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What is a clinical trial?

In clinical trials, people volunteer to test new treatments, interventions or tests.  Some clinical trials assess how people respond to a new treatment and what side effects might occur, to determine if the new treatment is safe, if it works and if it is better than the currently available treatments.  Clinical trials can compare existing interventions or look at new ways to use existing drugs and devices.  Clinical trials may also assess diagnostic or screening tests to find new ways to detect diseases. 

Why do we need clinical trials?

Clinical trials are needed for the development of new interventions or treatments that help people live longer and improve their quality of life by treating disease, reducing pain and disability.  Many new interventions have resulted from clinical trials.

Why participate in a clinical trial?

Participation in a clinical trial is highly valued and contributes to improved healthcare both now and in the future. New interventions that improve quality of life and help people to live longer, with less pain and disability are only possible because of the willingness of people to participate in clinical trials. Some of the reasons people may choose to participate in clinical trials, include:

  • Playing an active role in their care
  • Gaining a better understanding of their disease or condition
  • Gaining access to new treatments or tests that are not yet available to the wider population
  • Facilitating closer follow up 
  • Helping other people by contributing to medical research

Both healthy participants and those diagnosed with a disease or condition are needed to help find new ways to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure disease and disability. 

If more people are involved in clinical trials, the time it takes to make new interventions widely available is reduced.

Who can take part in a clinical trial?

People from the young to the elderly c​an potentially be involved in a clinical trial.  Some trials involve healthy people and others trials require people with a certain disease or condition.

Informed Consent

Participation in a clinical trial is voluntary, and participants are free to withdraw from a trial at any time without it affecting their care.  

Before deciding to take part in a trial an information sheet is provided to potential participants that explains what is involved, including the aims, duration, procedures, risks, potential benefits and alternative treatments.  It is important that this information is fully understood, and questions are encouraged.    

Before a clinical trial can commence, it must be approved by a Human Research Ethics Committee.  Ethics Committees are independent and consist of medical, scientific and legal experts, as well as members of the public.

​We have a large number of clinical trials across the hospitals and services in Northern Sydney Local Health District in all therapeutic areas, including drug and device trials.  Several examples of our trials groups are included below.​

 Oncology Trials

Oncology Trials

The oncology trials unit at Royal North Shore Hospital conducts over 50 clinical trials with state of the art medications and programs to treat and support disease.  These include sponsored international and collaborative group trials as well as investigator initiated studies.   

The unit is staffed by highly qualified research nurses and study coordinators working alongside internationally recognised oncologists and radiation oncologists.  Patients enrolled in our clinical trials are well looked after throughout their trial journey and have constant contact with medical and nursing research staff.  

Trials are currently recruiting to a wide variety of cancers including early and later phase studies in lung, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, hepatic biliary, neuro endocrine, head and neck, breast, gynaecology, urology, skin and central nervous system cancers. 

For any further information on current or upcoming trials please contact Sally McCowatt, the unit manager at ​

 Endocrinology CRU

Endocrinology Clinical Research Unit

The endocrinology trials unit within the department of diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolism at Royal North Shore Hospital. As the department's research unit, ECRU conducts international & multicentre clinical trials; cooperative research trials, grant-funded research studies, investigator-initiated studies, as well as quality audit trials on a wide range of endocrine disorders.

Clinical trials & research studies currently span diabetes, diabetes in pregnancy, pre-diabetes, bone & mineral disorders such as osteoporosis & spinal cord injury, pituitary disorders, menopause, rare genetic & metabolic disorders, and thyroid cancer.  Since 2020, the unit has also been involved in COVID-related prevention, detection, and treatment research studies.

For more information, the Endocrinology Clinical Research Unit can be contacted by email:

 Renal Trials

Renal Trials

The renal research unit is nationally and internationally recognised and integrated within the Department of Renal Medicine at Royal North Shore Hospital.  The unit conducts both basic science research and clinical research, with an array of studies beginning at hypothesis-generating scientific studies to large multi-centre clinical trials. Support for these studies includes grant-funded research, investigator-initiated clinical research and multicentre industry-sponsored clinical research. 

The speciality of renal medicine incorporates a wide range of clinical disorders including chronic kidney disease, diabetic kidney disease, glomerular disorders, dialysis, transplantation, renal supportive care, acute kidney injury, hypertension, pregnancy-related renal disorders, and more recently, COVID-related prevention and management.  The unit is currently involved in over 30 clinical trials across all these disease areas.  

A particular strength of the unit has been global leadership and involvement in diabetic kidney disease and glomerular disease clinical trials, conditions which account for over 50% of Australia's dialysis population and for which there is a clear need for new therapies to alter and prevent disease progression to end-stage kidney disease. As a result of our strong research reputation and effective conduct of trials, our unit is a leader in championing new and impactful trials in these areas. 

The renal research unit welcomes contact by patients, caregivers and clinicians regarding our current and upcoming trials. For more information, please email