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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why I Chose A Clinical Trial For My Cancer Treatment



A weird thing is happening, and I feel like it is the best practical joke I have ever played. I'm giggling every time I think about it.

In June I spoke at the CCF dinner in Chicago to a group of cancer research donors. The speech was recorded, and many of you visited the site that I shared to watch the recording. Then last month I happened to log on to conquer.org to get some information, and lo and behold my smiling face staring back at me! I shared, and many of you visited the site then.

Well, turns out CCF has a pretty enormous ad buy with whoever is in charge of the internet these days, and if you've been to conquer.org in the past 100 years, my smiling face is there to greet you on ANY webpage you're visiting.

Shopping for fishing supplies? Here's a smile from Brittany. Reading the news? There I am! Researching for a term paper? Well, here's Brittany to keep you company.

Every time I think about it I laugh literally out loud. You can't even check the score of the game last night without my face saying hi and helping you along. Best. Joke. EVER!!!


Joking aside, I really love that I am able to partner with CCF in their efforts to fund new cancer researchers. In our happily ever afters, we so easily forget that cancer can happen to anyone, that none of us are immune. I think a picture of a twenty-something and her little miracle girl convey that reality in a powerful way.

Someone asked me in an interview recently what my reasons were for participating in a clinical trial, if I could expand on the idea of giving to scientific knowledge, and to encourage others to do the same. To be honest, I chose to participate in a research trial because it was my only option. I'd spent a lifetime hoping that my ASPS wouldn't metastasize, because every medical resource declared stage IV ASPS a death sentence. So when my oncologist said "There may be hope with this clinical trial, this one clinical trial," I jumped all over it.

It wasn't until later in my story that I was able to recognize the significance of the research element of my treatment. Everyone on my trial is monitored very closely for side effects and changes in disease. This data is collected and quantified, then sent to someone somewhere in the pharma industry who decides that because x number of patients on the trial have responded well (represented by the quantified data), they will be able to make the treatment available by prescription and covered by insurances. That means that my participation is allowing others to receive a treatment with a stage IV diagnosis, not a death sentence. As a cancer patient, this is among the most meaningful contributions to humanity I feel I could possibly make. There are unique risks with clinical trials, especially with new drugs or combinations since we often don't yet know the side effects. But that meaningful contribution to someone else's treatment is truly invaluable, especially when you consider the volume of patients that could benefit from your contribution for generations to come.

If ever you are given the option to participate in a clinical research trial, I hope you will consider doing so. A group of Renal Cell Carcinoma patients chose to participate in a Phase I clinical trial of axitinib/pembrolizumab to test its safety at varying doses. Because of their participation, that drug combination was allowed to move into Phase II studies, one of which is my axi/pembro trial. I am benefitting from their contribution and sacrifice, as I hope others will benefit from mine.

If you want to learn more about clinical trials, here are some resources:

  • This article from my oncologist in Miami
  • Q&A from clinical trials.gov
  • Comprehensive info from American Cancer Society

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