John Suckling, Bowel Cancer clinical trial participant

After having part of my bowel removed to take out the cancer, I was referred to an oncologist who explained that the standard treatment for my situation was a program of chemotherapy with 12 infusions of the chemicals over a 24 week period.  He gave me a long list of possible side effects to take home and read.

The oncologist then asked me if I would be prepared to participate in a clinical trial. The aim of the trial was to see if half the treatments, i.e. 6 infusions over 12 weeks, would give similar results to the longer treatment.  Half the trial participants would get the full course of treatment and half would get the shorter version.  He explained that the trial would not benefit me in any way but would help future patients.  The thought being to shorten the time of dealing with any side effects as well as reducing the intrusion into patients daily lives.  I took home further reading material explaining the trial process.

After discussion with my wife I agreed to participate in the trial.  I guess my reasons were threefold.  Firstly, I was happy to be in something which might further medical research to help future sufferers. Secondly, it appeared that participants would be receiving even more attention and monitoring than usual, which was comforting, and thirdly, since I was apprehensive about the potential side effects, having heard stories of others who have suffered bad reactions, I thought the chance of the shorter treatment was appealing.  I was not worried that the shorter treatment would not be adequate as I felt sure the various ethics committees would not have approved the trial if there was significant risk to any patients.

As it turned out, I was allocated the full length treatment but my apprehension about the side effects was unfounded as I came through the treatment without much grief.  I was happy to be very sympathetically and thoroughly monitored both during the treatment and for the years afterwards. The clinical trial staff were always there for me if I had any queries, and although I could have gone to the oncologist or the oncology nurses, the clinical trial staff always seemed to be better able to make time to talk through any concerns I had.

By coincidence, I have recently become friends with another participant in the trial, well after our treatments had been completed.  My friend received the shorter experimental treatment, and her experience was similar to mine in terms of the positive experience.  Perhaps because she was receiving the experimental version of the treatment she seems to have been even more closely monitored than me, which is probably as one would expect.

I would certainly encourage anyone who is invited to participate in a clinical trial to be prepared to be involved. We are all happy to receive the benefits of the most up to date treatment for our various ailments, but an important way these treatments can be developed and improved is by those who can help the doctors and scientists to test their new ideas.  I feel you can be assured that you will be well looked after during the process.