Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) recently had the opportunity to participate in a podcast with its partner Advarra through their In Conversations With podcast. In this episode, Becoming Your Own Best Advocate Through Patient Empowerment, Advarra’s Chief Commercial Officer Robann Cunningham and PEN’s Director of Development Robin Barnes discuss how patients can become their own best advocate through resources like those provided by PEN.
Advarra helps advance how clinical research is conducted: gathering life sciences companies, CROs, research sites, investigators, and academia together at the intersection of safety, technology, and collaboration. With its trusted review solutions, innovative technologies, and consultants and worldwide connections, Advarra provides solutions that help safeguard trial participants, empower clinical sites, ensure compliance, and optimize research performance. Advarra is working on clinical trials to help make them safer, smarter, and faster for all patients. You can learn more about them at advarra.com.
Breast Cancer Survivor’s Lessons About Patient Engagement
Robann Cunningham of Advarra has a personal connection to Patient Empowerment Network’s mission through to her own experience as a breast cancer survivor. After her diagnosis with triple-negative breast cancer with a BRCA mutation, Robann was scared but also felt fortunate to have knowledge of how to take control of her cancer journey as an engaged patient. She knew about the importance of exploring treatment options and multiple opinions to decide on the best path forward for her. Robann feels that one of her goals in her mission as a breast cancer survivor is to increase patient engagement in clinical trials, and the podcast with Robin is one way she has worked toward fulfilling her goal.
Robann collected some key takeaways from her cancer journey including:
- Finding the right path for you is key—and knowing how to find it is even more important.
- Education and awareness are everything.
- We can increase the number of success stories.
You can learn more about her breast cancer experience in her article “What Being a Breast Cancer Survivor Taught Me About Patient Engagement.”
The Advarra In Conversations With podcast provides a rich conversation about patient empowerment. Robann shares some things about her cancer journey, while Robin shares about her experience as a care partner for her husband. Robann shared her views about empowerment, “The humbling experience that that was being in this industry, but I think what I really took away and what’s important here is that I would define empowerment as both awareness and advocacy and I think that if we can raise awareness, advocate, and then I would also say education is critical.”
Robin also shared PEN’s views, “Empowerment will mean something different to each and every one of us, but at the Patient Empowerment Network the core of what we believe empowerment means is having the knowledge and also the confidence to become a co-decision maker with your healthcare team, and what that often looks like is insisting on personalized treatment options it means asking questions, it means having the knowledge and education though resources…to be able to come with confidence to that conversation and make sure that what you are receiving is the right treatment for you…”
Clinical Trials Process
Clinical trials, of course, are discussed in the podcast. Robin shared, “Encouraging patients and care partners to not think of the clinical trial, as a last resort option if other treatments have failed but to consider it at the very first step of a diagnosis, and that, of course, ties into when appropriate biomarker testing and all of these wonderful tools that we have today.”
Regarding clinical trial informed consent documents, Robann shared, “I recommend if anyone out there is considering getting involved is to really take your time through that process, make sure that you are afforded that opportunity to have a conversation with the investigator and staff you ultimately you need to have a level of confidence and a good relationship with your investigator and their team…” Patients must be given time to take the document home to review the terms and to discuss them with their care partner and family members to ensure the patient is comfortable with the proposed research. I know Robann also shared, “…there is a popular saying, which is ‘Nothing about me without me,’ and so much of what you’ve shared today, I think, really speaks to that.”
In the podcast, Robann and Robin also discuss timely topics including health literacy, health equity, actionable resources, community-based organizations, and goals for the future. PEN is excited to be partnering with Advarra to help advance patient empowerment and clinical trial efforts. We hope you can take some time to listen to the podcast or to read the podcast transcript – and to read Robann’s article about her breast cancer experience and what she learned about patient engagement. Stay tuned as we report more about our ongoing partnership efforts with Advarra in our dedicated efforts on the behalf of cancer patients and care partners.