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Clinical Trial Subject Perspective

By Lauren Del Sarto

We previously published Understanding Clinical Trials (July/Aug 2014) featuring an interview with Don Anderson, MD, principal investigator at Desert Valley Research. As a follow-up to that story, Desert Medical Imaging presented a client, Ed Dykstra, who wanted to share his story from the perspective of a clinical trial subject. Following is our interview with Ed:

Why was a clinical trial appealing to you?

ED: I wasn’t really looking for a clinical trial per se; I was looking for the best, most current treatment for my condition. I found the trial by chance and good luck.

My PSA levels had been rising for a couple of years and the last one taken was 11. Our plan had been “watchful waiting,” but with this latest reading, it was time to take action. My Southern California doctors recommended a traditional ultrasound-guided biopsy; however special equipment had to be ordered due to a prior surgery which took time. A prominent urologist had casually mentioned that he occasionally sent patients to “The Desert.” (DH: This reference was to Desert Medical Imaging (DMI) which is currently conducting clinical trials using cutting edge technology to perform as Ed puts it “what had been all but impossible before” for prostate cancer patients). 

I went to DMI where a precise MRI guided biopsy (no ultra sound necessary) was performed on three suspicious areas. The results came back positive for prostate cancer on one of them. DMI recommended Focal Laser Ablation (FLA), a procedure which uses a precise laser to “kill” the tumor with a small margin around it to ensure its destruction for several years. They had been performing this procedure for several years with very good results. I had that done on the tumor area within a couple of weeks of the cancer diagnosis; the procedure took a couple of hours and didn’t even require general anesthesia. Test programs are currently going on all over the country, and I believe it will become the treatment of choice for prostate tumors. 

What were your other options?

ED: My other options were traditional prostatectomy surgery, cryosurgery, or some type of radiation. These were somewhat complicated by my prior surgery, and all seemed to come with potentially debilitating side effects. After a lot of research by both myself and my wife, and a second opinion from UCLA Medical Center, we decided FLA was the most promising and positive treatment available. Looking back, I believe my unique prior surgery gave me a major advantage due to the fact that without it I most likely would have had an ultrasound-guided biopsy, and potentially a robotic assisted prostatectomy, with all the inherent potential after effects.

Do you have advice for others considering becoming a human subject in a clinical trial?

ED: Clinical trials as a general rule are probably not for everyone. In the case of FLA, I urge people to use one of the best resources out there, the internet. Read the forums and the personal comments of men with prostate issues. Ask your urologist about it. Get second opinions.

To learn more about this or any clinical trial, visit www.ClinicalTrials.gov, a federal database of clinical trials that patients and family members can visit to learn more about disease-specific research. 

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