Dr. Andrew Armstrong, director of prostate cancer research at the Duke Cancer Institute, provides expert advice on what questions prostate cancer patients should ask when considering participation in a clinical trial.
Dr. Andrew J. Armstrong is a medical oncologist and director of clinical research at the Duke Cancer Institute’s Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers. For more information on Dr. Armstrong here.
What are some key questions that patients should ask their healthcare team before even participating in a clinical trial?
I think number one is what are the alternatives that I would have if I did not participate in the clinical trial? What are the standard of care therapies? And prostate cancer now has a vast menu. There is two different types of chemotherapy. There are two different types of target radiotherapy, that’s Pluvicto and radium. There’s immunotherapy, with Sipuleucel-T and other immune therapies. There are multiple hormonal drugs. There are precision medicines, like I mentioned, for men with certain hereditary types of prostate cancer. So, it’s important to hear what the standard of care is, and many patients don’t necessarily even hear that.
And then based on what patients have already seen and what’s the expectation? Risks and benefits around those.
And then on top of that, research can complement that or either replace or come after those standard of care approaches. Certainly if a patient has exhausted the standard of care approaches, a trial can offer real benefits.
It’s important to ask about risks. What have other patients experienced going into that study? What kind of toxicities, good or bad? What other – what’s the evidence that it has helped people before? If it’s never been studied in people, the evidence might just come from the laboratory. But hearing about why is this so promising, why have you chosen to invest so much time and energy in this trial, is a good question.
And then if you’re hearing about a trial and you’re making a decision to travel, sometimes asking questions about whether the trial will cover your lodging or transportation, gas money, airport travel. Some trials do do that.
You can also look on clinicaltrial.gov for sites that are near you. So, many centers open the same trial in a different state, so you can look on that website to see if there’s a trial near you for what you’re looking for.