As a study coordinator at a major cancer center, I was fortunate enough to work closely with oncologists and their patients. Sometimes, I’d developed a special rapport with a nervous family of a newly diagnosed patient, who would quickly find themselves overwhelmed with the barrage of doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, and radiologists. Participating in a clinical trial made things even more chaotic for them.
One family I got to know traveled far to the city from a rural area. They found the long drive from home, the quick city demeanor of the hospital staff, and the long wait times to get blood drawn, get a CT scan, and get a chemo infusion exhausting. But their mother, who had cancer, always came in with a positive attitude and a smile.
Sadly, her cancer spread quickly. She went from being fully mobile to using a cane. The cancer spread to her brain and she suffered a great deal of confusion, to the point where she would argue with her family and the doctors because she no longer understood what was going on.
The last time I saw this family, the woman was using a wheelchair. She no longer spoke at all. She never smiled. She couldn’t even hold her own head up anymore, which always drooped to one side as a result. Her family was in tears, begging the oncologist to find a way to help alleviate her pain.
It was always difficult to watch patients decline rapidly and suffer during their last days from pain and limited mobility. When I became a clinical research monitor, I missed having close contact with patients. But on the flipside, I was able to review the patient charts of far more patients than before. Over the years, amazing advances in cancer treatment have emerged. One exciting development was the use of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is different from traditional chemotherapy in that it uses one’s own immune system to fight off cancer cells. Some immunotherapy has already been approved for use in cancer patients. Though some side effects exist with immunotherapy, initial research shows that it is far less toxic compared to traditional chemotherapy. Research shows that the number of Grade 3 and higher adverse events for those patients undergoing immunotherapy is far less than that of patients undergoing traditional chemotherapy. Furthermore, immunotherapy can sometimes be used in combination with regular chemotherapy, thereby providing additional avenues to treat patients.
Working as a monitor at Parexel has helped me to see firsthand the evolution of cancer treatment and the improvement of quality of life as well as survival in those patients diagnosed with cancer. Being a witness to the progress that has been made really makes me feel as though my job has meaning for the lives and wellbeing of people.
About Parexel International
Parexel is focused on the development of innovative new therapies to improve the world’s health. We do this by providing a suite of groundbreaking biopharmaceutical development services that help customers across the globe transform scientific discoveries into new treatments for patients. From clinical trial design to regulatory and consulting services to commercial and market access, our therapeutic, technical, and functional ability is underpinned by a deep conviction in what we do. For more information, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.