The importance of clinical trials for blood cancer patients

Dr Kat Lewis works as a Haematology Clinical Research Fellow for Blood Cancer Research WA.  Kat packed up her life and family in the UK two years ago to gain the opportunity to learn more about clinical research and the role clinical trials can play in the management of blood cancer.   Her days are filled with assessing and treating patients that have been referred to either Linear Clinical Research or Sir Charles Gardiner in the hope they will be eligible for one of the 20 clinical trials currently recruiting for Blood Cancer Research WA.

Kat spoke about the importance of patients understanding what is involved in being part of a clinical trial. Depending on the type of treatment being received on trial, the time commitment and intensity of care is sometimes greater than standard care and patients need to understand this from the outset.  The commitment is worthwhile though, as data shows patients who are part of a clinical trial often have better outcomes from treatment.  Kat also explained that there are two types of treatments, brand new treatments that are being administered for the first time and established treatments that are awaiting funding or a new indication or being compared with current standard therapies to see which yields better outcomes for patients.

The amazing thing about blood cancer clinical trials is that the new treatments coming through are generally very well tolerated and very effective.  Kat has about six patients who have been on three to four trials.  Each new trial medication prolonging their life, and at a good quality.  Her favourite story of trial hope is a patient who had cycled through multiple different lines of treatment, all eventually failing to work until the patient entered a trial for a brand-new treatment at the time, a BTK inhibitor.  Seven years later this patient is still responding to the BTK inhibitor, a treatment that wasn’t even developed when he was first diagnosed with blood cancer.

Kat felt she had a grasp on how important clinical trials were before this role, but she believes she now has a very deep understanding of the importance clinical trials play in enabling patients to access life-saving therapies.  To have a Fellow that is dedicated to enrolling patients in clinical trials results in more patients accessing new treatments and a continuity in care throughout the trial which is critical for the patient’s wellbeing.  To the generous individuals that donated their funds to financially support this role, thank you for believing in the importance of clinical trials, and my role as a Clinical Fellow.

To learn more about the trials on offer at Blood Cancer Research WA click here.