From Behind the Microscope to Under It: A Researcher’s Experience Participating in a Clinical Trial
We sat down with Meaghan Loy, Category Director, In Vivo Services at Scientist.com, to discuss her perspective on clinical trials and to learn more about her own personal experience being involved in one. After years of performing research within the biopharma industry, Meaghan was diagnosed with an orphan and rare disease. However, the treatment option she was offered had some less than desirable side effects, which left Meaghan facing a difficult decision: accept the treatment option, which might leave her health even more compromised than before, or take matters into her own hands and search for clinical trials investigating novel treatments that might provide a better outcome. Based on the title, it is fairly obvious which route she took.
“…I feel like I owe it back to the system that I’ve been working in,” - Meaghan Loy, MS, ALAT
For Meaghan, her experience participating in a clinical trial felt like a full circle moment. Meaghan had previously worked at Covance where she was involved with a wide variety of animal studies, including monkey reproductive studies, surgical support, dosing and more. “I’ve dosed hundreds of animals, taken thousands and thousands of blood samples and run studies like this many times before, and I kind of felt like it was my turn to do it,” she recalls. Participating in a clinical trial felt like it would be a fitting way to give back and close the loop, given all the years that she had spent on the other side of the study, working with those animals for medical research.
The Unexpected Aspects of a Clinical Trial
Although Meaghan did not know exactly what to expect upon entering the trial, she had years of experience as a medical research professional and was familiar with the overall process. Still, she was shocked by the lack of information provided regarding the study. With a Master’s in Biotechnology and a previous career in research, she approached the study as a scientist. Unlike most people who participate in clinical trials without a significant science background, Meaghan wanted to know all the details about the protocol and what exactly she was getting herself into. She described this as a hurdle for scientifically minded people, because the researchers did not allow participants to see much of the clinical trial information, meaning “[you] have to go in with a fair amount of trust,” she points out. Potential clinical trial participants must consider and weigh a number of factors prior to deciding to participate. For instance, a trial can be very time consuming, and with the increasing complexity of study designs and inclusion of adaptive design elements, the duration of participation can be highly variable, even within a single study. In addition, there is no guarantee that an individual will actually be selected for the trial or receive the drug, even if they meet the required qualifications.
“…We need to share some of that data and be our own advocates,” - Meaghan Loy, MS, ALAT
Giving Back to Science
One thing that kept Meaghan motivated while pursuing this clinical trial was the idea of the universal responsibility that we all share to contribute to scientific research. “I really wanted to do it because I feel like I owe it back to the system that I’ve been working in,” she said; in particular, when it comes to orphan and rare diseases, there is not a large pool of qualified candidates for clinical trials. This provided Meaghan with a strong sense of purpose despite the demanding requirements that arose from the trial. She emphasized that research cannot happen without volunteers, so it is important that we each play a role in furthering scientific discovery. In light of the recent pandemic, we are reminded now more than ever of our dependence on science and drug discovery as well as the importance of having adequate global health data, which cannot happen unless we each play our part in providing such data. Meaghan stressed the importance of sharing our health data to the extent that we feel comfortable and playing a part in advancing life-saving research. This could be as individually impactful as participating in a clinical trial, like Meaghan, or simply taking a few minutes to thoughtfully respond to a survey about vaccines. “The more information we have, the better we can do. We need to share some of that data and be our own advocates,” she concludes.
If you want more information about the process of participating in a clinical trial, or if you think you might be eligible to participate in a clinical trial, visit: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ to find a study.
To hear other personal stories, like Meaghan’s, from individuals who have participated in clinical trials, visit: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/nih-clinical-research-trials-you/personal-stories.