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Research participants are not ‘guinea pigs’

The Sept. 16 “Discount Diva” column suggested that readers participate in clinical research studies to earn money – “like winning the lottery” for “being a guinea pig.”

It’s important to understand that there are many types of clinical research studies. These are a class of studies that evaluate human behavior, dietary practices or test new procedures or medications like antibiotics in healthy individuals who may not directly benefit from the trial results. Such studies typically compensate participants for their time and travel expenses.

These participants, however, are by no means “guinea pigs” who undergo random experimentation, since all these research studies are carefully regulated. These carefully designed studies evaluate promising new medical treatments or new ways of preventing cancer. Patient safety is the No. 1 concern. Stringent safeguards and regulations protect patients, there are internal and external review boards for all clinical trials, and further, participation is entirely their decision. Participants take an active role in their care, hoping to improve survival for themselves and others. In addition, not everyone is eligible to participate. Only people who meet the strict requirements of a particular trial may enroll.

Patients come to Roswell Park from all over the world to participate in clinical research studies that will give them access to promising new drugs and therapies that would not be available to them elsewhere. Clinical trials in cancer patients are the reason there are breakthrough treatments now for a number of cancers including lung, breast and leukemia. These valiant participants provide medical researchers, like myself, with information we can get from no other source. The answers they provide today will lead to more effective ways of preventing and curing cancer – and that will be, indeed, “like winning the lottery.”

Alex Adjei, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Vice President

for Clinical Research

Roswell Park Cancer Institute