Victoria Carter

Victoria Carter
“We are fortunate that our patients are so supportive of the cancer research efforts going on at the hospital,” explains Dr. Michael Milosevic, Director of Research for the Radiation Medicine Program. “There are over 350 clinical studies currently taking place at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and that is only possible because a large number of patients say ‘yes’ when asked if they would participate in a study.” 
 
It is estimated that one in four patients at The Princess Margaret is participating in some kind of trial or study, and that high percentage is an important factor in making it one of the top 5 cancer research hospitals in the world.
 
Victoria Carter is typical of this positive attitude toward supporting cancer research. “When I was asked, I couldn’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t participate in the trial, and there was a good feeling associated with participating in something that might help other cancer patients down the road,” she said.
 
Victoria was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December of 2007 at the age of 55. After being referred to The Princess Margaret, her radiologist, Dr. Milosevic, explained the treatment recommended for her—a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. He also explained that he was running a study designed to test the effectiveness of a new drug in combination with radiation therapy. It turns out Victoria was the first person to sign up for this study.
 
Based on work in the research labs, he and his team believed that the drug, called Sorafenib, could improve the overall survival outcome for women being treated for cervix cancer. Sorafenib is a drug designed to slow or arrest the formation of blood vessels that supply a tumor with blood and hence their source of energy and nutrients.
 
By monitoring the women in this study over time, doctors have important data that they hope will confirm if this drug in combination with radiation improves patient outcomes.
 
Part of participating in a clinical trial often means making yourself available for additional appointments, tests and procedures (e.g., blood tests or CT/MRI scans), or keeping a diary of any side effects you might experience. Clinical studies, particularly those involving new drugs, need to track and record a great deal of information in an orderly fashion so that proper conclusions can be made on the effectiveness of the new treatment.
 
In Victoria’s case, she had many blood tests and was scheduled for a number of MRI scans that tracked her tumor and how it responded to Sorafenib in combination with her radiation and chemotherapy.
 
She didn’t find the additional tests and scans to be onerous. “In fact,” she explained, “it was a good feeling to have my progress monitored and tracked so closely. And the outcome couldn’t be better—today I’m cancer free!”
 
“It always requires a leap of faith to try something new,” offers Dr. Milosevic, “but we rely on our patients to trust that we would not recommend anything to them without believing that it could be beneficial and without disclosing all the important information they need to make their decision. Participation in a study is always their decision.”
Revised: October 2013