Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute are conducting a clinical trial, called the SOLO-1 trial, to test the efficacy of a new drug for women with advanced ovarian cancer. Dr. Jacob McGee, Gynaecology Oncologist, and his colleagues at the London Regional Cancer Program at London Health Sciences Centre hope the drug will help delay or prevent disease progression.
Ovarian cancer is the most serious of all gynecological cancers. Each year, 2500 Canadian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 1700 women succumb to the disease. Symptoms are varied, vague and easily missed during early stages making diagnosis tricky.
Janet Heerema has been participating in SOLO-1 since last August. Janet admits that deciding whether or not to participate in the trial was one of the most difficult choices she had to make during her treatment course. “Up to that point, I followed doctors’ orders and decisions were made for me,” says Janet. However, now the choice was in her hands. “I asked a lot of questions and was comforted by Dr. McGee’s excitement over the possibilities of this new drug. Because I trust him and the team at LHSC I felt confident to join the trial.”
The standard therapy for advanced ovarian cancer consists of surgery followed by chemotherapy. However, the success of this approach is limited and approximately 70 percent of women relapse. “We are testing a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors and collecting information on how well the drug keeps the cancer from growing or spreading, how it impacts the patient’s quality of life, and how it impacts healthcare resource use,” says Dr. McGee. “If this is proven, it could mean an increased interval of time until the next lines of chemotherapy, delaying further hospitalization and/or major surgery.”
There are many benefits to participating in clinical trials. Through clinical trials, patients can gain access to the latest innovations in health care, treatment and medical devices—an option not necessarily available to patients visiting non-research hospitals. Also, they receive the added benefit of being closely monitored by their doctor and the research staff.
Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world on or near May 20 each year in honour of what is considered the first randomized clinical trial conducted by James Lind aboard a ship on May 20, 1747. Lind was a Scottish surgeon who recruited 12 men for his “fair test” where he demonstrated that citrus fruits cure scurvy. His research practices established a foundation for combining scientific research with clinical practices to provide patients with the best care.
Currently at LHSC there are more than 2,600 active clinical trials. Janet is happy she made the decision to participate in the study. “For me, the benefits (of being in the trial) outweigh the alternatives. I hope and pray that the drug helps me personally, but also that it helps other generations of patients who come after me,” says Janet. “In the end, we walk this path of life together and it feels good to do the best we can for ourselves, our families, our friends, and others.”