Throat cancer survivor chooses clinical trial to ‘help someone else’

Chuck Caldwell was in Europe with his wife in September 2015 when his throat started bothering him. At the time, he chalked up the soreness to allergies or drainage and didn’t give it much thought. But when Chuck got back to Houston later that year, he started feeling lightheaded, and the pain in his throat began radiating up into his ear. A few days before Christmas, Chuck finally saw his doctor, who used a scope to examine him. The news was not good. “I asked him if it was throat cancer, and he was almost positive it was,” Chuck says. “But he also thought it was fixable, and said he was going to refer me to the No. 1 guy in the U.S.: his brother.” Choosing a clinical trial to help others “That guy” turned out to be MD Anderson’s Randal Weber, M.D., and Chuck got an appointment with him during the first week of 2016. Weber confirmed the throat cancer diagnosis and recommended a treatment plan of radiation and chemotherapy. G. Brandon Gunn, M.D., Chuck’s radiation oncologist, asked if he would consider a proton therapy clinical trial. The 77-year-old didn’t hesitate. “It sounds kind of Pollyanna, but if it will help someone else down the line, I would always do it,” Chuck says. “It’s worth it and a small price to pay.” A risk that paid off Chuck’s only real concern was the possibility of not receiving proton therapy. As a clinical trial participant, Chuck knew that a computer would randomly determine whether he’d receive standard radiation or proton therapy, and he really wanted the latter. “My wife and...