When you think of research, you might imagine a scientist in a laboratory standing over beakers of steaming liquids. While researchers in a laboratory work to advance science and find treatments, you might wonder how that beaker in the lab becomes the next breakthrough treatment for high blood pressure?... or chronic pain?... or even cancer? After extensive study, if a new treatment shows promise in the laboratory....
Not all clinical trials are about drugs, medical devices or treatments. Clinical trials have helped develop screening processes and prevention methods to find diseases earlier or prevent them altogether. The value of lifestyle changes like exercise and diet are studied through clinical trials, and more often, people are surviving diseases like cancer due to clinical trials.
Many Canadians live with medical conditions or chronic illnesses. Some of them need medication or require many different treatment approaches, and others live with a medical condition for which there is no cure or effective treatment. To ensure medicine and treatments can advance to meet the needs of all Canadians, the involvement of Canadian volunteers in clinical trials is critical.
By participating, you may help researchers find:
By monitoring treatment closely and watching for side effects, researchers will learn if the treatment is safe.
By comparing two or more treatments, researchers will learn which treatment works better.
By finding new ways and methods to use existing treatments, researchers may advance medicine.
By testing in different groups of people such as the elderly and children, researchers will learn who will benefit the most.
My wife Rose was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and joined a 10-year cancer clinical trial. It focuses on which treatment is more effective in preventing cancer re-occurrence: the traditional approach of whole radiation of the breast compared to more intense, shorter term radiation focusing on the tumour site. The experience has given her the opportunity to further research while receiving more comprehensive care than normal for women with her diagnosis. I am proud to support her in her efforts to make breast cancer a thing of the past.
Had I been diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma when I was my son Finn’s age, there would have been virtually no treatments available to me. In the 30ish years between when I was 21 months and when Finn was 21 months, things changed dramatically. And they changed dramatically because of clinical trials. The treatments that came from those clinical trials helped change a very sick boy into one who was able to: Run Jump Bounce Dance Sing Love Smile and Ride. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to cure him. But changes are coming and clinical trials can and will change that for the next Finn.
In 34 years of suffering from Crohn’s disease I never signed up for a clinical trial. In reflection it seems like a clinical trial was like a mysterious, secret club where you had to be on death’s door to qualify. I’m likely not the only one who feels this way. Imagine how much of a difference it could make to so many people if we all know how important clinical trials are to developing medicines that can help us, and how we can play a part in making that happen.
Clinical trials are a very necessary part of new medication availability. I am a firm believer they can result in the difference between life and death or even a life of disability and a life of mobility. My participation in clinical trials has resulted in having a very fulfilling and rewarding life. When I was first diagnosed 34 years ago with rheumatoid arthritis, I was told I might be in a wheelchair in 6 months to 2 years. Today, 34 years later, I actively participate in family life; I travel frequently and I honestly believe a wheelchair will never be a part of my future.
There are many reasons why people may choose to participate in clinical trials. Some of the benefits of participation may include:
New doors are opened to therapies that can improve the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.
Whether you want to help yourself or others, your contribution will benefit
By adding information to what we know about a disease or treatment.
As a whole, we have a
healthier society when
we have new treatments.
Speak to your doctor and healthcare team about any and all potential risks of a clinical trial. Risks may include side effects of the new treatment that can be minor, unpleasant, serious or even life-threatening.
There are lots of stories and examples of how clinical trials have made and continue to make a difference.
There are still many diseases without a cure or even effective treatments. We do not know why a medication may work very well in some people, but not well in others. Some medications have unpleasant side effects for some people, while other people experience few or no side effects. We need to learn more about this.
What can improve medical treatments? What can influence public health policy? Once research is done in a laboratory, clinical trials are the next crucial step, and participation by Canadians in clinical trials is important.