In Tara Parker-Pope’s Health Journal column, “Lessons Learned From Doctors, Patients, and My Mother,” in last Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal she talks about her mother’s experience with esophageal cancer. In this excellent piece, she writes, “Taking charge didn’t save my mother’s life, but it made the end of her life better, and gave all of us confidence in her care and the choices she made.” She goes on to write, “She believed, just as I do, in the power of information to save a life, even if it wasn’t her own.” We couldn’t agree more.
On the day her mother received her diagnosis, an estimated 1.3 million other Americans were diagnosed with cancer. Some are highly treatable. However, for others treatment eludes us. The road to treatment is paved by clinical trials. At FasterCures we focus on how we can educate more people about the central role clinical trials play in scientific advances. Clinical trials fuel the drug discovery process and ultimately lead to better treatments and cures. Nevertheless, the process remains a mystery to most. As a nation, we need to put more emphasis on helping the public understand the process of clinical research and innovation – experiment, evaluate, redesign, and experiment.
When patients enroll in trials, survey data shows that clinical trial participants feel overwhelmingly positive about their experience, believe they are treated with dignity and respect, and receive good to excellent care. And yet we know that fewer than 5 percent of adult cancer patients enroll in trials each year.
Clinical trials won’t be the right fit for everyone. My father found his way into a clinical trial after his leukemia diagnosis two years ago, and Ms. Parker-Pope’s quote about how the information didn’t save her mother’s life but it made the end of her life better resonated with my dad’s experience. His clinical trial participation gave meaning to his diagnosis. His access to a top-notch cancer center and experts in the field gave him hope that there was an infrastructure churning towards treatments. He was highly motivated at the prospect of participating in a clinical trial that might help him, but more importantly would help provide valuable information to finding treatments for others.
Information is power and can be empowering. My family will soon remember the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death, and we will honor his contribution to leukemia research. At FasterCures, we are working to ensure that others are offered the information about clinical trials, for everyone’s benefit. Thanks Dad.
Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures