Thursday, June 15, 2006

Where there is life, there is hope

Now this is the kind of thing that makes research worth doing. I know that the researchers are probably pulling long hours (although working for Novartis means you don't work for peanuts) and these trials can seem like they will go on for the rest of your life. I don't work with little kids, but I used to have a job working for a research team that was studying the informed consent process, and what they did was they taped the conversation between the doctor and the parents of little kids who had just been diagnosed with leukemia, about whether they would like to participate in a clinical study that was testing different patterns of giving established drugs to see which was the best regimen. Of course, they had to have this conversation basically as soon as they found out that it was leukemia, so oftentimes the parents were crying, or totally overwhelmed, and really shaken.

The drug featured in this study is for AML, which is the worse kind of acute leukemia, and so I'm really happy that there is new treatment for it. About ten percent of the parents on my tapes were told that their children had AML instead of ALL, and to them it seemed like a death sentence because it is so much harder to treat, and the treatment itself is much harsher. And the Ph (or Philadelphia) chromosome they refer to was also a very feared outcome, since it means the leukemia is mutated that much more and will be harder to kill.

That's one way in which clinical research can be a really inspiring field to work in - you are never finished, the treatment can always get better, people can always feel better, and there is always hope.

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