Peter Mac News

My experience on a clinical trial: Beverley’s story

20 May 2024

Screenshot 2024 05 20 at 9.58.51 amPeter Mac patient Beverley is currently on a clinical trial for multiple myeloma.

As Peter Mac patient Beverley recounts her cancer journey, it’s clear it’s been a long and arduous one. 

Diagnosed in 2016 with stage-three multiple myeloma, she’s had many treatments – including a stem cell transplant – which put her into remission until last year when a tumour was again discovered on her lower spine.

A number of drugs followed – an immunotherapy drug in combination with another for multiple myeloma – which she was on for about 30 weeks before they stopped working.

As her treatment options run out, she’s opted to enrol in a clinical trial – something she was terrified about when it was first suggested to her. 

“I thought in my mind, people only do trials when they're dying,” Beverley recalls. 

Screenshot 2024 05 20 at 9.56.50 am

She is now on cycle three of treatment on a clinical trial for a type of immunotherapy.

Now that treatment is underway, she's able to reflect on the impact she could be making on the future of cancer treatment. 

“When I was debating about going on a clinical trial, I thought, well, my options are quite limited, and by participating there will be a lot more options and drugs for other people,” Beverley says.

“There are a lot more treatment options now than when I was first diagnosed - there was no immunotherapy then - and that's all down to clinical trials and people participating in them around the world.”

Her initial fears about side-effects didn’t eventuate and she’s been able to manage the treatment so far, with only headaches, nausea and night sweats. 

But it’s no small task – the treatment regime is weekly and she is at Peter Mac two days a week being cared for by a massive team of experts who monitor and test her.  

One of those is clinical trials nurse Hannah Kelly, an expert in myeloma who worked on the very first CAR T-cell therapy trial in myeloma at Peter Mac back in 2020.  

This week she’s looking after three trial patients –managing every part of their care from appointments to side effects. 

She says one of the biggest “myths” about clinical trials is that they are only for people who have no other treatment options left.

“That may well be the case in some situations, but a lot of the time trials are actually access to treatment regimes that aren't available as the standard of care yet,” Hannah explains.  

“We run lots of trials that are accessible to patients who are newly diagnosed, along with trials that are for patients who are further into their treatment journey.”

Screenshot 2024 05 20 at 10.06.21 amPeter Mac clinical trials nurse Hannah Kelly

Trials are run in conjunction with drug companies and the clinical trials team spend a lot of time liaising with them to ensure all the trial requirements are met. 

They are also often a global exercise, the Peter Mac trials team and patients contributing to data that may see a drug become the standard of care across the world.

For the nurses, the most rewarding part is seeing their patients responding and thriving. 

“I ran into a patient yesterday who was two maybe three years post his CAR T-cell therapy and he was renovating his house and had been on holiday,” she recalls. 

“To see him doing so well was just incredible – and he never would have had access to that drug at that time outside of a clinical trial.”

Phases of Cancer Clinical Trials

Cancer clinical trials are conducted in phases, each designed to answer specific research questions:

  • Phase I: The first phase involving humans, focusing on safety, appropriate dosage, and side effects. This phase usually involves a small number of participants.
  • Phase II: This phase assesses the efficacy of the treatment and further evaluates its safety. The participant group is larger than in Phase I.
  • Phase III: These trials compare the new treatment with the current standard treatment in a large group of patients to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, and collect more data. Successful Phase III trials can lead to regulatory approval.
  • Phase IV: Post-marketing studies conducted after a treatment has been approved. They monitor long-term effects, effectiveness in diverse populations, and any rare side effects.

For more information about trials at Peter Mac, visit the Parkville Cancer Clinincal Trials Unit.