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Patients Share Perspective on Participating in Clinical Trials

May 14, 2021

For some women with cancer, participating in clinical trials means being among the first to benefit from scientific advancements that later become standard treatments.

In part two of our two-part series, highlighting women’s participation in clinical trials for National Cancer Research Month and Women’s Health Week, we spoke with two clinical trial patients, Susan Shivers and Barbara Hamons, who shared their perspectives on participating in clinical trials, emphasizing the importance of a strong relationship between a patient and their care team.

Read part one of this two-part series, where their physician, Anna Priebe, M.D., FACOG, a gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology–Tyler and Longview Cancer Center discussed the importance of participating in leading-edge cancer research.

How familiar were you with clinical trials before participating in the process through Texas Oncology?

Hamons: I was introduced to clinical trials the day Dr. Priebe diagnosed me with ovarian cancer.

After telling me that I’d receive the normal treatment for my cancer, plus a medication that I might get to possibly keep the cancer from coming back, my immediate thought was, ‘Yes.’"
Even if I received a placebo and didn’t receive the additional medication, the fact that I would still receive the standard treatment and my participation could help future patients made it an easy decision.

Shivers: I wasn’t very familiar with clinical trials before this experience. In the early 2000s, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer and once the disease got to a later stage, I attended his clinical trial appointments with him, but I wasn’t intimately familiar with the process.

How has your perception of cancer treatment changed, since enrolling in a clinical trial?

Shivers: I enrolled in the research project before I began any kind of treatment. One of the research drugs was administered along with the standard of care drugs. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2020, after going to the ER with breathing problems and a swollen stomach. After a week in the hospital where they monitored me and performed tests and scans, I met with Dr. Priebe through telemedicine. She spent over an hour on the phone with me. During that conversation, she told me I was a good candidate for a clinical trial of medications that may slow the progression of my cancer. The medications, at the time, were not approved by the FDA for treatment of ovarian cancer.

For me, the study was a win-win because I could withdraw from the study, if needed, as Dr. Priebe would be closely managing every aspect of my treatment."

My condition would be monitored much more closely than if I weren’t a part of the trial.

Hamons: My perception of cancer treatment hasn’t changed because this is the only route I’ve taken. After the first treatment, once I knew what to expect, I’ve looked forward to each treatment because I’ve gotten stronger with each one. For me, it’s not a dread, it’s a blessing.

What would you say to a patient who is wary of participating in a clinical trial?

Hamons: I would say “Go for it!” It’s been a fantastic journey for me. My advice would be to listen to your doctors and care team.

Shivers: Don’t be afraid. It’s important to ask questions about it. Talk to your doctor about what it is, why they’re doing it, and how it could benefit you as well as other patients. For me, talking to Dr. Priebe about the risks and benefits helped me understand my treatment options. Dr. Priebe said that there weren’t many clinical trials available for ovarian cancer, and that she was glad this type of cancer was gaining much needed attention from the research community. I have a beautiful daughter, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and four amazing granddaughters. If this study could ever benefit them in the future, it’s worth it.

How has your relationship with Dr. Priebe changed/evolved throughout this process?

Shivers: Dr. Priebe is brilliant. I call her my brilliant doctor. As an OBGYN, a surgeon, and an oncologist, she’s been right there with me through this whole journey. It was comforting to get to know her and have her take care of me from my diagnosis, surgery, and throughout my treatments. She’s an incredible woman. Briana “Bri” Schamber, my research nurse, has been fantastic. I see her at every visit where she answers any questions I have and keeps me apprised of my condition.

Hamons: My relationship with Dr. Priebe hasn’t changed, she’s taken very good care of me, and I never doubted that she would. She has been fantastic. All the nurses and staff are fantastic. It’s been a fantastic journey.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.