May 3, 2013

Larry and Tom interviewed: prostate cancer, clinical trials, and our book

We were interviewed by the blog a while back.  Here we share the interview with you:
1. How did the two of you become colleagues/friends and what was the inspiration behind your blog? 
We met in the prostate cancer clinic as patient and physician and forged a friendship over the years.  The blog, along with the book was inspired by a strong desire to share knowledge about clinical trials with people who are living with cancer and who are called upon to make decisions about their cancer care. 

 2.  You are co-authors of the book Cancer Clinical Trials. Please tell us about it and what prompted you to write a book about clinical trials?
For 15 years now I have been deeply involved in clinical trials.  I have talked to thousands of cancer patients about hundreds of clinical trials.  Despite the fact that we spend a lot of time with each potential participant, I frequently had the nagging feeling that in the course of a clinic visit, or even several, we could never quite do a good enough job sharing all the knowledge I wanted to share with my patients.  The book was the only way to get this done.

 3. Dr. Beer, could you please address some of the common misconceptions and fears that people have in regards to clinical trials?
Well, there are many, and we cite examples throughout the book of misconceptions we have run across.  I think the first thing people worry about is that they will get a placebo and not a real drug.  We talk a lot about the way placebos are used in research in the book.  I think that is the area where there are the most misconceptions. 
There are many other areas.  For example, many people think that clinical trials are only appropriate when all other options have been exhausted.  That is not true at all.  Clinical trials are seeking to improve care across the entire spectrum of the disease and may be worthy of consideration at various points in the battle with cancer.

 4.  (Dr. Beer) Many people think that clinical trials are an option only after they have tried every other treatment for their cancer; however, is that really the case? Is it possible for patients to participate in trials in different stages of their disease?
No question about it.  Clinical trials seek to improve care in all situations including front line care.  The trials may be different in patients that have good standard treatment options.  For example, the standard treatment may be included for all patients and the new drug is added to it. 
But without clinical trials that test even the most fundamental cancer treatments, we would not have made the advances we have.  For example, breast cancer is often treated with surgery that removes only the cancerous lump and spares the breast.  Clinical trials that proved this was a sound approach are responsible for women being able to keep their bodies intact through cancer treatment.

More of our interview in the next post.

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.
(c) 2013 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker