Lancaster Physician Winter 2020 - 9

WINTER 2020

C

linical research studies are necessary
for advancing medical care. Yet
some patients may have negative
perceptions of clinical research, even
though there may be value to them participating.
"In many cases, clinical research studies
provide patients with access to a particular
treatment or therapy that may otherwise not
be available to them," said Terry Novchich,
director of the Clinical Trials Office at Penn
State College of Medicine.
Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical
Center is home to hundreds of clinical research
studies. Central Pennsylvania residents of all ages
have access to a variety of studies, including:

Autoimmune diseases
Heart failure and other
cardiovascular conditions
Liver disease
Neurological diseases
Pediatric and adult cancers
Tobacco use and smoking
cessation
Despite careful regulation and oversight,
patients may be wary of volunteering to
become involved due to some misconceptions about clinical research.
"A conversation with their provider can
help them explore their choices and address
potential concerns," Novchich shared.
Dr. Neal Thomas, associate dean for
clinical research at the College of Medicine,
and Novchich offer strategies for addressing
common myths they hear from patients
about becoming involved with a study.
MYTH - PATIENTS MAY FEEL
THEY ARE BEING EXPERIMENTED
ON OR ARE "GUINEA PIGS" FOR
RESEARCHERS.

"It's important for physicians to communicate to their patients that clinical research
is not experimenting on someone just to
experiment," Thomas said. "It is about
trying to find the best possible treatment
for a specific disease."
According to Novchich, it is critical for
patients to understand that new drugs or
treatments go through years of development
and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration prior to being tested with
human subjects.
"Every step of the drug approval process
focuses on patient safety," Novchich said.
Independent institutional review boards
ensure human subject protection during
all studies. Patients must consent to being
part of a study in a process that is regulated
at the local and federal levels. Members of
the study team discuss potential risks and
benefits with volunteers before they consent
to participate.
MYTH - ALL STUDIES REQUIRE
PARTICIPANTS TO TAKE A DRUG.
Some studies require participants to take
a new drug, but others may involve a new
medical device or therapy. Other times,
patients may fill out questionnaires about
their health history, get a brief medical exam,
or give blood or tissue samples.
"A lot of our research studies don't involve
patients receiving any kind of treatment,"
said Thomas. "Sometimes our research
involves making observations or collecting
information or samples so scientists and
physicians can understand why certain things
happen and try to develop new treatments
or therapies based on the study results."
MYTH - I SHOULDN'T GET
INVOLVED BECAUSE I MAY NOT
GET THE DRUG ANYWAY.

Thomas says it is common for patients
to misunderstand what it means to be part
of a control group in a study. Later phase
studies often have a placebo group where
some participants do not receive the therapy or medication being tested. Physicians
should ensure that patients understand they
are still going to receive the standard of care
as part of that group.
"The only way to scientifically tell if a
medication or therapy has an effect is to
compare it against the standard of care,"
Thomas explained. "If there is another
medication or treatment that is effective for
a particular condition, patients may receive
that in addition to the placebo."
MYTH - I HAVE TO BE SICK TO
GET INVOLVED WITH CLINICAL
RESEARCH.
"We need healthy volunteers for various
studies, depending on where we are in
the development stage of that drug," said
Novchich.
Some healthy volunteer research doesn't
involve exposure to medications or treatments. Many times, scientists study healthy
volunteers to understand how certain physiological processes work.
Ultimately, many patients get involved
with research studies because they want to
do their part to help improve the future of
health care.
"A lot of people say even if a study won't
benefit them or their loved one, if it could
help the next generation of people who are
dealing with that problem, then it is worth
it," Thomas said. "The overarching goal of
clinical research is to improve the care of
the patients we treat, whether that's the
individual patient who is recruited for the
research study or future patients with the
same condition."

Learn more about clinical research opportunities at Penn State Health by visiting

studyfinder.psu.edu.
LANCASTER

9

PHYSICIAN


http://studyfinder.psu.edu

Lancaster Physician Winter 2020

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