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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Elisa was in her early 30s when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the eight years since then she has been through surgery, radiation and six different chemotherapies. Early this year, she learned her cancer was progressing, and she was running out of options. Elisa lives in Chile. A friend, who is a cancer specialist, told her about an immunotherapy trial in Chicago for which she might be a candidate. Elisa and her mother made the long journey from South America to Illinois to be part of this innovative study. Right now, she is doing well. While the future may remain uncertain, being part of this trial has given her hope.

Bill is a successful lawyer, a husband and father. Twelve years ago, he was diagnosed and treated for a rare brain tumor. He went on with his life, until the tumor returned in October. Standard therapy offered little chance for a good or lasting response. His doctors in Chicago suggested that he go to New York for a clinical trial with a new targeted therapy. Now, he still practices law, takes care of his family and travels every few weeks for his innovative therapy.

What can we learn from these two stories?

First, by joining a clinical trial, both Elisa and Bill were treated with new therapies that would otherwise not have been available to them. Like many people with advanced or difficult to treat tumors, they knew that their best option was to consider joining a clinical trial. That put them at the forefront of cancer research. Both knew when they made the decision to leave their homes and travel to another cancer center that there was no guarantee that they would respond to the treatment. They made conscious choices to be a part of something that might make a difference for them, and for other people facing similar cancers.

It takes courage and belief to join a clinical trial. Many cancer patients bring those characteristics to their experience. From the moment a person hears the diagnosis of cancer, he or she enters a strange new world. This new world requires making decisions about treatment and care. For many, that may include the opportunity to join a clinical trial, yet another unknown territory. The hope that new treatments bring is a beacon of light in that world.

Elisa and Bill represent the people facing cancer who actively seek information about the treatments available for their cancer, who work as partners with their doctors and health care teams to make the best decisions about their care. They both made choices that involved dislocation, uncertainty and loss. They made these choices because the clinical trial represented something more important. They chose hope--hope for longer, better lives. They chose hope for the future, for themselves, the people who love them and everyone who ever faces cancer. Hope is what inspires courage and belief. Hope drives clinical trials.

To learn more about Clinical Trials, check out our new Frankly Speaking about Cancer Clinical Trials program at www.CancerSupportCommunity.org/ClinicalTrials.