Why One Cancer Survivor Wants All Patients to Consider Clinical Trials
When melanoma unexpectedly returned after a successful surgery twelve years prior, T.J. Sharpe was both a husband and a father. Second, third and fourth opinions later, Sharpe was finally offered a life-changing option.
“I wanted a chance to see my children grow up and be the husband and father I could be,” says Sharpe. With the first few doctors, Sharpe’s predicted life expectancy was under two years, which he was determined to extend. “I wanted the best chance at a long-term response.”
Seizing an opportunity
Sharpe was on his fourth oncologist when he was offered his first clinical trial. It was for a new treatment in the form of a pill, and Sharpe was the first patient in the trial. Because it was so new, he ran into bureaucratic barriers. “I was the first patient to try it, so there were a few stakeholder companies and pharmaceutical companies that I had to wait for over a month to get the contract approved.”
After contacting the stakeholders himself to push the paperwork through, Sharpe started the trial. “When you have a family and you are facing mortality, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see these kids grow up because I was missing part of a signature.”
An incredible recovery
After months on the pill treatment, Sharpe’s tumors weren’t responding. But with determination came plan B, and Sharpe started on his second trial. After twelve weeks, he saw a 46 percent reduction in his tumors. Four years later, Sharpe’s only signs of cancer are small spots that have stabilized for over two years. Today, he remains in the trial to continue monitoring his response and overall system.
The results of the clinical trial have so far doubled his life expectancy, an accomplishment Sharpe does not take lightly. “Clinical trials should be considered as an option for care in every single case,” he says. For Sharpe, the norm should be to hear your standard care options, but in conjunction with the clinical trial options.
At that point, let the patient and their doctor make the most informed decision. “When it comes down to it, we are all patients at some point, so we should know what all of our options are before making decisions.”