People participate in clinical trials for many reasons. Some do
it because they feel it is their best treatment option. Some
volunteer because they want to help others with the condition.
Regardless of the reason, volunteering to participate in a clinical
trial is a personal decision, one that we here at MMG deeply
The Healthyist staff was recently lucky enough to speak with
T.J. Sharpe about his experience participating in a clinical trial
and his decision to share his story with the public.
T.J. was the first patient in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL,
and was the first person worldwide to receive a specific sequence
of treatments to fight
melanoma. He is currently in a second clinical trial at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort
Lauderdale, FL, receiving an
T.J.'s blog, Patient #1,
appears on philly.com, where he provides updates on his fight
against cancer and invaluable information about clinical
In part 1 of this two-part series, we discuss his decision to
participate in and stick with a clinical trial.
What made you say "yes" to a clinical
Several things factored in the decision. First and most
important, we received good guidance from multiple sources that the
best treatments for stage IV melanoma were not yet approved but
currently in trials. I was extremely fortunate that there was
significant work being done in metastatic melanoma at the time of
I had worked as an IT consultant early in my career for several
pharma companies…whose drugs were part of my first and second
clinical trials. I knew from that experience how the clinical trial
process worked and there was no fear or hesitation to enroll.
Finally, and related to the first point, we set as a goal a
durable long-term response. Comparing the current melanoma options
to the clinical trial options, both my doctor and I felt like the
trials by far gave us the best chance of achieving that
Patient retention is often a challenge for clinical
trials; did you ever consider dropping out? Why or why
The only consideration I had of dropping out was in the second,
PD-1 trial, which had a control arm of [a certain kind of]
chemotherapy, which I was very against. We actually made our
selection of specific trials based on the one that had a
compassionate crossover to the study drug, should I be randomized
onto the chemotherapy arm. Luckily, that was a choice we never had
On the first trial, we were given the option of dropping out
when a diverticulitis made it necessary to get a colostomy bag.
Rather than drop out and forgo one promising option, we chose to
stick with the trial even with a hiccup that delayed treatment a
month and gave me the colostomy for over two years.
We will continue our conversation with T.J. next week, when we
talk about patient education regarding clinical trial
You can read more about T.J.'s journey at philly.com
or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.