Howard Gurney, Professor, Head of Clinical Research for Medical Oncology

Professor Howard Gurney

Director of Medical Oncology and Clinical Trials, Macquarie University

Head of Clinical Research for Medical Oncology, Westmead Hospital

My reason to get into clinical trials is because medicine, the human body and the disease processes are so complex that we cannot possibly understand them. Clinical trials are the conduit to understand things more and therefore improve patient care.

If you want to be a medical oncologist, if you want to be in cancer medicine, you really have to be in clinical trials. It's the best way to improve the care of our patients and get more treatment options for them. 

It’s about what might work better, but also what is not working as well.  For example, many years ago I was an investigator on a clinical trial where the result was negative and that was a real eye-opener. We conducted a trial of a particular regimen called CHOP, and another quite aggressive regimen called MACOP-B.  Everybody thought MACOP-B would be better, you're going to cure more, why do we have to do this study? When the study was finalised, it demonstrated MACOP-B was no better. That showed me that you can't just make it up as you go along. These things that we intrinsically believe in our gut, that this is going to be good is often wrong. The best way to find out whether something is better or not is to do a randomised clinical trial.

A lot of Australians can benefit from doing clinical trials generally, and get access to these drugs and hopefully make their disease better. That is incredibly satisfying to me.