Clinical Trials Overview

UC San Francisco is committed to finding new ways to prevent and treat disease in people, and these efforts involve a form of research called clinical trials.

After a proposed treatment, drug therapy or device is found to be helpful and safe in animals in laboratories, it must also prove to be safe and effective in humans. This evaluation period is known as a clinical trial. A clinical trial also can study human behavior.

As a leading health sciences university, UCSF is actively involved in more than 1,700 clinical trials. All trials are conducted in coordination with UCSF Medical Center, which serves as UCSF’s academic medical center and is consistently ranked among the nation's top hospitals by U.S. News & World Report

Empowering Patients

To review a list of clinical trials available at UCSF, use our Clinical Trials finder. For a summary of clinical trials throughout the United States and the world that is maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see NIH Clinical Trials.

While clinical trials are considered the fastest way to determine if a proposed intervention is safe and effective, they include both potential benefits and risks. A trial participant has the chance to receive a potentially promising treatment that is not available to the general public and to receive care at the nation’s top academic medical centers and research institutes. Broad and diverse participation in a clinical trial also ensures that the treatment, drug or device will be effective for everyone, not just a segment of the population.

However, those participating in clinical trials face the chance that their disease or condition will not improve with the experimental treatment, and they could experience adverse side effects, among other possible drawbacks.

What is most important for patients is knowledge about and access to clinical trials, so they have the opportunity to participate if they choose and can make informed decisions about their health.

Rules on Approval and Adherence

The details of a clinical trial, including all tests and procedures used in the trial, are outlined in a research plan, usually called a protocol. Before a clinical trial can begin, the protocol must be approved by UCSF's Institutional Review Board.

After a clinical trial is approved by the IRB, a UCSF team of researchers, clinicians and other patient care specialists oversees the trial and all interactions with the research volunteers. This team follows strict rules set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies regarding clinical trial processes. The rules ensure that people who participate in clinical trials are treated as safely as possible.

A clinical trial is paid for by the organization that sponsors the research, which may be a drug or medical device company, as well as by private foundations, gifts to UCSF, faculty members on the trial team or the departments of the UCSF faculty members.

Learn more about volunteering for clinical research at UCSF »