Stand Up to Cancer

An organization called Stand Up to Cancer funds and develops the newest and most promising cancer treatments. It informs cancer patients of clinical trials for which they may qualify.

pills an syringe

Clinical trials are conducted all over the world and with different types of treatments, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, cancer vaccines, immunotherapy, epigenetics, and combination treatments. When a drug shows promise, clinical trials must be performed to discover its effectiveness. Ultimately, the FDA approves drugs only after rigorous testing.

A cancer patient who participates in a clinical trial will never get a placebo but some form of effective drug. Patients are rigorously monitored by oncologists through a variety of tests. A committee called the Institutional Review Board protects the interests of patients who participate in the trial. This board operates independently of the organization which is funding the study. IRBs do many things, but a main focus of their work is to protect the rights and welfare of participants. If they have any questions or concerns about a patient’s safety, they can mandate changes to how the study is designed.

I was eager to participate in a trial my oncologist was heading. It involved three different immunology drugs. The goal was to discover whether the drugs working together would be more effective than any of them working alone. In my case, the doctors discovered through extensive testing (every dang week) that the drugs had affected my liver and sodium levels. I was dropped from the study. Ironically, my oncologist, who was directing the study, has no access to those test results. Patients aren’t matched to specific tests in order to maintain patient privacy.

My brother-in-law in the 80s participated in a trial for the drug interleukin-2 which is now used for treatment. His melanoma disappeared, and he was cancer free for twenty years. Unfortunately, the other participants died. A clinical trial does not guarantee total eradication of the disease or even that the drugs used will be effective since the drugs are in the experimental stages of development.

If you’re interested in knowing more about clinical trials, check out http://www.standuptocancer.org.

 

Immunology, Part 2 – Clinical Study

In August 2016, I entered a clinical study. I wanted to participate in the possible cancer written on beachdevelopment of new drugs for cancer.

In this case, the docs wanted to use three drugs to see if they together would be more effective than any of them alone. I took two of the drugs by pill with a “run-up” period that gradually increased the dose. The third drug was administered by infusion.

The medical tests were intense. Every week, I had blood tests. I regularly had EKG and CT scans. They even threw in a PET scan for good measure. The docs also took biopsies, which required sedation, and a detailed ophthalmology exam.

I did well for a while but then developed problems with liver levels. The docs stopped one drug and reduced the other. Ultimately they had to stop treatment altogether because the drugs also lowered my sodium levels and landed me in the hospital for two days.

The sodium returned to normal after restricting my water intake. The liver problem was tougher and required prednisone. The steroid accelerated cataract development and resulted in two cataract surgeries after a year.

Clinical trials are necessary in the development of new drugs, including the immunology drug I take now. I’m grateful for patients who participated in that study and hope my statistics will help the next generation.