At Thompson Cancer Survival Center, oncologists and the clinical trials department work together to find suitable trials that could benefit patients here in East Tennessee. Clinical trials manager Jennifer England says patients are sometimes recommended by doctors and sometimes selected from research of medical files.
“We then meet with eligible patients to discuss the trial,” England says. “This often takes place in the exam room on the day of an appointment with the doctor, but sometimes we will call them at home and schedule them to come and meet with us.”
Patients are given ample information about the process, and an opportunity to ask questions. “A very important aspect of this meeting is reiterating that participation is completely voluntary,” England says. “We describe what will be required of them, and if we know what the possible treatment is, we will discuss side effects.”
When the patient decides to participate, the clinical trials nurse and the doctor have to perform an assessment within a month to verify eligibility. The process may include blood work, heart tests, and various medical scans.
While the patient is undergoing treatment, a nurse coordinates all appointments, including any required blood work, follow-up scans and doctor visits. The coordinating nurse attends every appointment with the patient, and asks a series of questions about physical and mental well-being to help determine whether the medication has more, fewer or the same side effects as traditional treatment. Sometimes patients are asked to fill out questionnaires about their day-to-day lives and how they are feeling, and those questionnaires are submitted to the study.
The process is clinical and scientific, but it’s also personal. “Sometimes we may see a patient once or twice a month for years,” England says. “One of the best parts about clinical trials nursing is the bond we form with our patients and being able to offer them the service of their very own nurse, who is only a phone call away during their cancer treatment.”
Whether a patient gets the trial treatment or the standard treatment, participation in these clinical trials helps bring a complete cure for cancer a little closer to reality. “Participating in a clinical trial can not only provide access to cutting edge cancer therapies, it also directly impacts the future of cancer care,” England says.
To learn more about clinical trials at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, visit www.thompsoncancer.com/clinical.