When Roger Dick was diagnosed with cancer, his physician suggested surgery right away. Then, as if there weren’t enough decisions to make, Dick learned he might be eligible for a clinical trial through the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
“My urologist had suggested immediate surgery for my prostate cancer,” the Stafford County farmer said. “But in the meantime, Dr. Mark Fesen told me about a clinical trial.”
Dr. Fesen, Heartland Cancer Center oncologist, is even more aware today of KU Cancer Center clinical-trial possibilities because St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center is a member of the Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA).
Since St. Rose owns Heartland Cancer Center, this MCA partnership means local cancer patients now have special access to KU trials and research. The KU center is a National Cancer Institute facility.
In collaboration with Dr. Fesen, Dick learned that half of the 750 trial participants from across the country would be selected by computer to have surgery immediately. The other half would undergo chemotherapy and hormone therapy for six months, and then have the surgery.
The computer selected Dick for the chemo first. He started the therapies in July 2011 and finished in December. The surgery with the urologist followed shortly thereafter.
“It was a decision-making process,” Dick noted, referring to the clinical-trial possibility. “The cancer was fast-growing and throughout my prostate – all the way out to the edge. And it was ready to go outside the prostate.
“This was strictly my decision on whether to volunteer for the trial,” he continued, noting Dr. Fesen and other physicians didn’t try to twist his arm. “I made the decision with my wife, Fran. I am glad we decided on the trial because it has turned out all right. I would recommend that people at least consider it.”
Dick realized that trial results could help others down the road but acknowledged it was “not the driving factor. I am no hero. But in the back of your mind, you know the knowledge they gain could help other men.”
Currently, Dick visits Heartland Cancer Center every three months for a checkup, and visits with Cathy Huber, clinical-trial research nurse.
“We must ensure the patient meets all the very specific criteria and provide education on the type of cancer involved,” Huber said. “Then my role is to ensure appointments, lab work and x-rays are done according to protocol. I submit all research data to the group conducting the trial and maintain all records.
“It has been nice getting to know Roger during this process,” Huber added. “He is a giving person with a positive attitude. I believe he realized he may benefit from new treatment options and that it could help future cancer patients. He is definitely playing an active role in his own health care.”
Huber also echoed Dick’s comments about the voluntary nature of trial participation. Patients are given reading material and time to think about the commitment, and to discuss it with family and primary physicians. And they have the right to withdraw from the trial at any time.