Clinical trials are an opportunity for patients to try new treatments and medicines that offer the potential to improve or extend their lives.
The number of clinical trials have been increasing as healthcare systems put more focus on them and strive to service underrepresented minority communities in testing.
Each year millions of people participate in clinical trials amidst the hope of a cure and the fear of the unknown.
Loretta Binaso was told she would die within six months in 2014. The doctor diagnosed her with Merkel cell carcinoma. This is a rare skin cancer and it had already advanced to other parts of her body. She started to search for clinical trials online and was able to find one. The trial was using an experimental immunotherapy drug created by a pharmaceutical company.
Binaso was in the trial for 15 months and is currently in remission.
While reflecting, Binaso expressed that she feels grateful for being able to participate in the clinical trial. Binaso was overwhelmed when she was initially given six months to live and adamant that this would not be her fate. She is still in research to check and see how the drug affected her, but she feels that if she is able to help one person, “it’s worth it.”
Unfortunately, some clinical trials give patients unwanted side effects.
For example, one woman named Ann Capobianco, 54, was told she had triple negative breast cancer, which cannot be cured with many typical medicines. Her medical team recommended a clinical trial at NYU Winthrop. Capobianco was given the medicine Keytruda every three weeks for one year from 2018-2019 and is now cancer free. However, she did get unexpected side effects. She started noticing disruptive issues with swallowing and eating. After visiting a doctor who specializes in hormone disorders, she found out she had a progressive disease called adrenal insufficiency; she will have to take hormone replacements for the rest of her life.
Although clinical trials offer the possibility of relief and cure, it also holds fear and risk. Many patients fear clinical trials because they do not know what to expect. Participating in one is a “courageous act” says Dr. Diane Reidy-Lagunes, an oncologist.