Cutaneous scarring is an enormous medical problem with approximately 100 million patients acquiring scars each year. Scar prevention/reduction represents a significant, and largely unmet, clinical need. Research into the prophylactic modulation of scar outcome differs from research into other disease processes as the scar is not present at the start of the study; measurements of changes from baseline are impossible. Final scar morphology is influenced by many variables. A fundamental principle that should be observed in the prospective evaluation of scar prevention/reduction therapies is that, if left untreated, wounds in treatment and control groups should have healed with identical scars. Observation of this principle will allow the detection of true treatment effects. The many variables that influence scar morphology mean that the evaluation of potential pharmaceutical products for this indication favors the use of self-controlled designs in clinical trials. In this article, we review variables that affect scar morphology and recommend the self-controlled design for clinical trials aiming to establish proof of efficacy of scar prevention and reduction pharmaceuticals. With no pharmaceutical products currently licensed for this indication, this represents a new therapeutic area. The principles discussed will also have direct relevance to the wider fields of wound healing and regenerative medicine.
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