Recently, I was chatting with one of my colleagues about Covance Clinical Research – he was helping them work on an ad campaign.
Many moons ago I had taken part in some studies at the Leeds clinic. At the time, it was called Hazletons. As a student with a bit of time to spare, I could commit to some of the longer studies which involved staying as a resident for 7 – 10 days. It had been quite a positive experience, and the study payments certainly came in handy at the time!
When I looked at Covance’s current studies and realised there were some shorter clinical trials which I could easily fit around full-time work, I thought – why the hell not!?
The study that caught my eye had a three-night stay and checked in on a Thursday – meaning that most of it fell on the weekend and I wouldn’t be giving up precious holiday. I called the recruitment team who caught up with my medical history since my last trial and booked me in for a screening appointment. Once I’d passed screening, I was invited to check in to the residential part of the study along with 11 other volunteers. I was surprised that many of the others were at a similar age and stage to me – I’d expected to see mostly students, but because this was a shorter study and it fell over half term, many of the people I met were full-time workers.
Because I’ve taken part in clinical trials before, I knew that nothing too scary was going to happen to me in the clinic. You hear urban myths and horror stories about mad scientists amputating and re-attaching toes, but I knew that in reality the procedures on a clinical trial are much more basic, like analysing blood samples. There has already been a great deal of testing carried out on the study drug before it reaches human testing.
However, I must say that I did have some reservations when I learned that the drug I was testing was a potential treatment for cancer. Obviously, cancer treatments like chemotherapy can have unpleasant side effects, so I was a little apprehensive about what I might experience.
When I came for screening, the member of staff I spoke to was very honest and informative, which was reassuring. She read through an Informed Consent Document with me – this contains all the information about the study drug, including how many people have already tried it and any potential side effects. There were a few things in there which I hadn’t noticed when I read through it by myself. She didn’t hide or try to ‘gloss over’ any of the risks, but she gave me all the information I needed to make up my own mind. It’s always good to be treated like a grown-up!
After my appointment, I felt more relaxed about the study drug. But the thing that really put the tin hat on it was watching Channel 4’s Stand Up To Cancer fundraiser on 21st October, just before I was due to check in. There were so many heartbreaking stories from so many different families – it was pretty relentless, to be honest! One way or another, cancer affects everyone. Volunteers on this study get to contribute to the fight against this awful disease. From that point, I was resolute. If I had any worries about taking part, I put them to one side then and just thought about the benefits.
My time on the study passed really quickly. Everyone was friendly, the staff were fun and energetic, but also professional and very capable. Not much has changed since my last visit, but the attention to detail seemed to be even more meticulous than before. Everything is timed to the minute – when you are given the drug, when blood samples are taken, when you go for your meals – you’re actually kept quite busy!
Did I experience any nasty side effects? No! The day after I’d been given the study drug I did feel a little bit ‘snotty’, and one or two of the other volunteers said the same thing; but I’m not sure whether that was actually caused by the drug or not. I might’ve even been given a placebo, I’m not sure!
I suppose people often associate cancer treatment with hair loss – but I don’t have much up top anyway, so I wasn’t really worried about that! We were told that the drug might potentially cause a change in hair colour, and I remember joking with one of the nurses, trying to guess what colour it might go! White? Bright orange? It might actually be a benefit if it turned your hair a really nice colour!
I never got to find out, as none of the 12 volunteers did notice any change in their hair colour. And everyone left with just as much hair as they had when they checked in! Like me, all of the volunteers said they’d be happy to come back and take part in more studies.
When it was time to leave, I was given a cheque for £688. It’s nice to get a financial boost like this, particularly with Christmas just around the corner, but I didn’t go into the study with a particular plan for how I was going to spend the payment. After a bit of thought, I decided I’d donate part of it to cancer charities. It feels good to have given some of my free time to cancer research, so why stop there?
If this post inspired you, and you’d like to follow in Mike’s footsteps, why not apply for one of our clinical trials?