February 15, 2023
How One Man’s Success Story Shows the Power of Clinical Trials as Best Possible Care
This Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month, I reflect on a recent clinical trial success story and how it acts as a potent reminder of why I joined Teckro.
When you work in the clinical trials industry, you are constantly reminded that the stakes are high. From sponsors to site staff to vendors, all stakeholders in the ecosystem are motivated to improve patients’ lives.
But as with any profession, it can be easy to get caught up in everyday tasks, meetings and deadlines. So, it was wonderful to read such a powerful UK news piece about Manchester-based Robert Glynn’s story of clinical trial success.
Beating the Odds
The now 51-year-old was diagnosed with intrahepatic bile duct cancer in August 2020. The cancer was only picked up by chance because of an infection in his gall bladder, so was at an advanced stage when he was diagnosed. Told he had just one year to live, he was referred to an immunotherapy trial at Manchester’s The Christie, where he was offered the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial of an unnamed experimental immunotherapy drug, combined with standard chemotherapy. The treatment shrunk tumors in the liver and adrenal gland, so during surgery, surgeons found only dead tissue – meaning the treatment had killed off all cancer cells and Robert is now cancer-free.
The story is especially hard-hitting because Robert was given just a year to live. The extremely low five-year survival rate for bile duct cancer patients means that a diagnosis can be a death sentence. But, according to The Christie’s Professor Juan Valle who ran the trial, the outcome offers hope for bile duct patients across the world and could mean a change in how patients are treated in the future.
Rapid Patient Referral
The trial results highlight the importance of rapid patient referral for clinical trials. Teckro’s CEO Gary Hughes has touched on this topic before, highlighting a Tufts study showing the communication gap between physicians and patients. In the research, almost all physicians and the majority of nurses felt comfortable discussing clinical trials with patients, but very few actively referred them. There are many reasons why referrals to clinical trials may not happen today, such as a lack of information, a lack of awareness and a general wariness of handing over patients. Because physicians want to send patients to specialists they know and trust, they are not going to choose them based on whether or not they are an investigator in a particular study.
However, had Robert Glynn not been able to access a trial, he probably wouldn’t be alive today. This is why we hope to see more physicians recommending patients to clinical trials as a matter of routine. Increasing awareness among physicians of clinical trials as a care option could give hope when all may seem to be lost. There is also the increased awareness among patients, such as Robert, that clinical trials can offer treatment – and as seen in this case – possible cures. That’s why we support patient advocate groups to help raise awareness for clinical trials to the general population too.
By engaging every stakeholder in clinical trials, I hope we will see more positive outcomes. Working at Teckro we are reminded of this every day – and spurred on by stories like Robert Glynn’s which show the true potential of clinical trials to save lives.