In May, we’re talking about clinical trials for prostate cancer patients. We also have an ulterior motive: we would love it, if after reading this issue, each and every one of you asks your doctor if there is a clinical trial that is appropriate for you. Why? Clinical trials are the only path to furthering our understanding about how and why prostate cancer occurs—and progresses—in some people and not others. It’s also the only way we can develop new and better ways to treat prostate cancer. But all of that is lofty and altruistic.
How do you, as an individual patient, benefit from joining a clinical trial? First, you may be able to access treatments, procedures, or imaging that you would not otherwise be able to access.
And even if you’re on the control arm of a study, you’ll get standard of-care, which could mean drugs, scans, or procedures at a reduced cost. At the very least, when you join a trial you will be more rigorously monitored by the study team, which could lead to better outcomes for you. Studies show that patients on clinical trials tend to do better than those not on clinical trials, even if they get the same treatment.
When should you consider looking for a trial? Right after you’re diagnosed. Just ask your doctor if there are any trials that are right for you. There may not be. But by asking, you’re letting her know that you’re interested so that, the next time she runs across a trial looking for patients like you, she’ll be sure to bring it to your attention.
Once you enter a trial, make sure you let the investigators know that you’re interested in the results. Of course, given both prostate cancer’s long natural history and the clinical trial process, those results may not come for many years after your actual participation, but let the researchers know that you’d like to know the results once they’re available.
As you’ll read in the conversation with Ms. Merith Basey, too many clinical trial results go unreported in the United States and on a global scale. How can you help? As Ms. Basey points out, if you graduated from a United States university, call or write your alma mater to let them know that you’d like the administration to ensure that every trial conducted under their auspices is reported—whether those results are positive or negative.
Charles E. Myers, Jr., MD