May 20, 2016

The little-known connection between citrus fruit and the first clinical trial

sliced limes

The first clinical trial was not carried-out in a hospital or clinic; rather it was conducted on the ships of the British Royal Navy while at sea. On May 20, 1747, Dr. James Lind, a Scottish naval surgeon, published his findings on several remedies for scurvy and with that established one of the most important tools in health research today – the clinical trial.

In his findings Lind noted that those who had eaten oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits recovered remarkably well. His exploration of treatments led to sailors taking limes out to sea with them (hence the nickname limeys). Today, clinical trials are used to evaluate new drugs and medical devices. Using the newest scientific methods and innovations, researchers and physicians investigate ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses.

Clinical trials are critical to the research being carried out by OICR and its partners in the cancer research community. OICR hosts the Coordinating Centre of the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN), an organization that is working with cancer centres across the country to improve the environment for academic oncology clinical trials.

His exploration of treatments led to sailors taking limes out to sea with them (hence the nickname limeys)

“Clinical trials not only provide us with a way to evaluate new methods to treat cancer but also allow patients to consider additional treatment options if standard treatment is not effective,” explains Karen Arts, Executive Director of 3CTN. “Participants and future patients may benefit from clinical research.”

May 20 marks International Clinical Trials Day, which highlights the importance of clinical research and clinical trials. It recognizes the valuable contribution made by clinical trials professionals and raises public awareness. Almost 270 years after Lind published his findings, clinical trials have become vital to the advancement of medicine.