Clinical Trials Offer Opportunities for Patient, Others
|Andrea Smalls is the Clinical Trials Coordinator for UVMC.
Upper Valley Medical Center’s Cancer Care Center is ready to work with patients interested in participating in clinical trials of drugs and treatment regimens.
Although only a small percentage of adult patients choose to participate – reflecting the national participation rate – the hospital sees clinical trials as an important part of the center offerings, said Jean Heath, RN, BSN, MA, OCN, Cancer Care Center Director. Around 3 percent of adults nationwide participate in trials, while for children, the rate is about 60 percent.
Part of the job of the center and Andrea Smalls, RN, BSN, M.Ed., NCSN, Clinical Trials Coordinator, is to educate patients and their families on clinical trial options and dispel the myth that participants are guinea pigs for medical research.
All patients participating in trials are provided with at least the standard of care, are monitored closely and are informed of any changes.
“I always tell the patient, ‘You are in the driver’s seat as far as continued participation is concerned. You can stop whenever you want,’” Smalls said. This is noted in every consent form and is signed by clinical trial participants.
At other times, concerns for patient safety, adverse reactions or physician recommendation may create the need to stop a trial. The standard of care used today for cancer treatment is a result of past clinical trials, Smalls said.
Heath said more people are learning the facts about clinical trials, in part thanks to people such as Smalls. “She presents it in a straightforward manner so that people understand,” Heath said.
Smalls is on hand to talk with each patient who visits the oncologist following a cancer diagnosis. She works to see “if there is something we could do that is more than the standard of care for that diagnosis.”
Among available resources are the Dayton Clinical Oncology Program (DCOP) and the National Cancer Institute, which has a web site with a listing of active trials by state and who can be contacted for additional information.
All information required for a patient to be considered for a clinical trial is submitted to DCOP.
Before a patient can participate in a trial they have to be determined eligible.
The requirements differ by trial, but are specific and can read “like a strict recipe,” Smalls said. One small deviation from the trial requirements – say a blood test whose results do not fall within prescribed parameters - can eliminate the patient from participation.
Smalls knows she is interacting with people during a very uncertain and challenging time of their lives. She is willing to share her own family experiences with cancer to help open some doors of communication.
“You are kind of sidestepping into their lives and asking them to trust you. There has to be a trust relationship,” she said.
Smalls, a nurse for 29 years who previously worked in school nursing, joined UVMC’s center last year.
Smalls said she sees her role as a more a day-to-day resource for the patient. “I follow up on what we need to do per each trial’s protocol and to keep the doctor abreast of what is going on,” she said.
A trial can last up to a year and follow-ups for years. Smalls is now is working with nine active trial patients, while following 41 patients long term.
For more information on the types of clinical trials available at UVMC or other questions, contact Smalls at (937) 440-4822 or visit www.UVMC.com.