Battling Bad News About Clinical Trials
I commented on a recent LA Times article about how “Unrealistic Optimism” is harmful for oncology patients in clinical trials. While I agree that lies and false hope is harmful, optimism is not.
Here is my response is below:
“That’s funny, I used to wear that same pin, except it was yellow. I’ve worked in the field of clinical research for nearly a decade with oncology patients. While I agree that “unrealistic optimism” is not what we want to elicit in our patients, optimism and a positive attitude is. Clinical Research is the ONLY method we (AKA the human race) have come up with to move medicine forward. If it weren’t for clinical research, both my mom and dad would not be alive right now. I remember explaining to my research patients that we really didn’t know how the new medicine would affect them. It was also clearly stated in every consent form I administered that participants may experience little or no benefit from the research. The optimism I saw patients experience came from the belief that something may work for them. They were willing to fight, they were willing to battle cancer one more time, if not for themselves, for the greater good of the other patients who may benefit from the research. Clinical trial participants are heroes, and if they are optimistic about the outcomes, then more power to them. We want to avoid misinformation and lies, but we do not want to stop that optimism. In some cases, optimism is the best medicine for healing. Without hope and optimism, regardless of FDA approval for a drug, what do people with cancer have?”