This post is a tribute to the alchemy of patients’ necessity, bravery and hope that make medical breakthroughs possible. Clinical trials and other cancer research are improving healthcare outcomes. We are pleased to highlight the CHN volunteers who serve as peer support mentors our TACT (Talking About Clinical Trials) program, helping potential study participants navigate the complexities of participating in cancer research.
From Galileo peering through his telescope (about the same magnification as a decent pair of binoculars, according to the guide at Kitt’s Peak National Observatory), or the Wright brothers launching themselves skyward, there’s magic in science, hope in discovery. Today, the fear of polio doesn’t haunt every mother and measles no longer kill millions each year. Cancer patients are living longer than ever after diagnosis.
Behind the headlines, there are people. Dedicated researchers searching for answers, advocacy groups fundraising to look for cures. And there are clinical trial participants.
Cancer Hope Network cancer support mentors can help
Cancer Hope Network’s Talking About Clinical Trials (TACT) program connects patients considering a clinical trial with a trained survivor mentor who was also a study participant.
Have questions about the signup process? Overwhelmed by paperwork? Hearing concerns from family? Talking with a TACT mentor is a chance to get firsthand answers. TACT matches – the connection between a volunteer and a support seeker – are free, confidential and available by phone. (request a peer support match today)
Research creates hope
“I encourage the patients I talk with to hold on to hope,” says CHN Support Volunteer Ann, a bladder cancer survivor and caregiver. “Don’t lose faith. They’re coming out with new research, new information and new drugs every day.” That hope is becoming a reality because of patients participating in trials. Lung cancer survivor Ellen feels fortunate to have been diagnosed now. “We’ve made more headway in the past five years than we’ve made in the previous 20.” Ellen and Ann are not alone in their passion for the hope research provides. Cancer Hope Network’s 400+ Support Volunteers have participated in clinical trials at more than twice the national rate.
Clinicaltrials.gov tells us more than 350,000 trials are active today. Some will succeed, and some will head back to the lab for further study.Thanks to researchers and patients in search of discovery’s magic, many of those trials will chart a path to new gold standards of treatment.
As with Edison’s “10,000 ways that don’t work,” some trials end without reaching their intended endpoint. But there’s magic along the way. Support Volunteer David, a glioblastoma survivor, participated in a double-blind study. When the study ended, he discovered he’d been in the placebo group – but that the organic carrier (included to mimic the side effects of the active drug) may have been helpful in keeping him alive. There are always reasons not to explore, to wait until the magic is tested and accessible.
For scientists, discovery sometimes means challenging long-held beliefs (see also: Galileo).
For pioneers venturing into the great unknown, there was certain hardship.
For patients facing cancer, there are reasons too – including not knowing about available trials and fear.
Trials can help participants find hope
Potential cancer clinical trial participants must balance the unknowns against possibility and hope. Support Volunteer Paul valued the possibility of more time spent with loved ones. His clinical trial lowered his blast score enough to make him a candidate for a life-saving transplant to treat his Acute Myeloid Leukemia and allowed him to attend his 55th college class reunion. Support Volunteer Hank began taking experimental treatments when his deep-seated melanoma metastasized. That treatment helped him “hold on as along as possible so they could develop something that could work” over the long term. Today, he’s actively volunteering to help others.
Cancer research helps others
For others, the magic is in the possibility of helping others – like colon cancer survivor Support Volunteer Michael. “The empathetic nature and persuasiveness of my oncologist convinced me to take part in a study. I wasn’t promised it would be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I’d be helping others.” Breast cancer survivor and caregiver Support Volunteer Linda agrees. “The studies are wonderful. You’re saying ‘yes, I’d be happy to be a guinea pig’ because it might help someone else. I would do the study again.” Support Volunteer Kent’s participation in a clinical trial saw him through aggressive prostate cancer – and the launch of the drug whose efficacy he’d been helping to test.
At CHN, we’re staunch believers that patients and their loved ones must be champions of their own health. For some patients, that may mean participation in a clinical trial. Our volunteers stand ready to help as possible participants navigate the decision-making process and treatment. Request a Talking About Clinical Trials match or call 877-HOPENET to speak to a member of our Programs Team.
We are indebted to the brave women and men who have ventured into the unknown – and created magic. Thank you.
Cancer Hope Network provides free one-on-one peer support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones.
Our survivor and caregiver peer mentors have faced more than 98% of the cancers that will be diagnosed this year.) Together with our caregiver volunteers, they provide support from diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship. Our team of social work and healthcare professionals oversees all volunteer and client matches.