I recently finished reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It wasn’t exactly an easy read, dense and informative, exceedingly well-written, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! There is something to learn on every page. What is even harder than taking in all that information is deciding where to focus the learnings. With my head still trying to digest all I heard at the recent National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocate Summit, I found a crucial intersection.
One of the great challenges in finding a cure to breast cancer, or any disease for that matter, is to fill the clinical trials. Only then can results be published, medicines be approved, treatment protocols be adjusted and people be healed. Dr. Mukherjee talks about it in his book, the scientists talk about it in plenaries, and it’s not easy to do.
First, there are misunderstandings. I address some of the obstacles facing clinical trials in my post Being the Change We Wish to See. People worry about substandard care, dangerous experimental treatments, and more. They should worry about these things! But they should also know the reality of how concerns are addressed and patients are protected in trials.
The other part of it is lack of awareness. Trials are run, most often, in big, institutional hospitals at major universities. They are not accessible to the “average Jane.” Or so we think… We can solve this one too!
Does anyone else remember the movie Stripes? Fresh recruits are sitting around with Sargent “Big Toe” Hulka when Cruiser tells the group he thought he should join the army before he got drafted. Sargent Hulka responds, “Son, there ain’t no draft no more.”
So it goes with clinical trials. There is no draft.
Why does that matter? The only way we can know if a drug or therapy is safe and effective is to try it out. Clinical trials are the only path to developing preventative measures, improving our diagnostic abilities, implementing better treatments and finding a cure. Clinical trials are a scientific, evidence-based methodology, and for them to work it is imperative that we fill them!
There is a role for ALL of us to play (yes, even the guys!).
1. Sign up here to join the Love/Avon Army of Women. Anyone 18 and older is eligible; we are looking for one million volunteers.
2. Read the 2-4 emails a month highlighting open studies to determine your eligibility.
3. Consider participating if you are a match (ALWAYS OPTIONAL!)
4. Recruit others to join.
5. Start today with a recently opened study for women 18+ who underwent surgery for any stage of breast cancer.
There ain’t no draft no more…please enlist today!