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Rolling the dice on clinical trials

Speaking of clinical trials, today's Well features a personal essay from a Sloan-Kettering physician whose wife is enrolled in a study of a new breast-cancer treatment. The piece is honest and real - "The truth was that the new treatment could turn out to be worse than the standard approach, and we would not know in time to stop it," he writes - and it honors those patients who choose to participate in studies:

As I watched Ruth sleep, I thought about the hundreds of thousands of women who had volunteered over decades for clinical trials, those who did well and those who didn’t. Their privacy protected by laws, the depth of their experiences reduced by statisticians to just a few numbers and figures in the pages of a medical journal.

Each study was a small contribution, paving the way a few feet forward or shutting down a detour that went in the wrong direction. Over time, what they contributed has helped us get a little better each year at treating breast cancer.

Signing up for a clinical trial is a remarkable act of bravery. The day before Ruth’s diagnosis she did not think of herself as a patient. She had no doctor in her life except me. And yet, when Ruth’s oncologist asked for her to sign up to be randomized, to let Lady Luck have yet another go at her, she did so.

Previously: What motivates people to participate in clinical trials?

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