Clinical trial participant: Why I don’t mind being in the control group

When I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (a precursor of acute myeloid leukemia) in July 2015, I don’t know what shocked me more: the fact that my only chance for a cure was a bone marrow transplant, or that because I was 75, my “advanced” age disqualified me from receiving one. Then I discovered that my insurance provider would consider covering transplants for patients over age 65 — but only if they met certain fitness criteria, and the transplants took place as part of clinical trials at a certified institution. Since I’d been playing squash competitively for years, I knew I could meet the health requirements. So, I began researching hospitals. As an economist, I like somebody with experience. And when I read about the incredible work Richard Champlin, M.D., was doing in this area — and the fact that MD Anderson performs about 850 stem cell transplants a year — I called to make an appointment. How I’m contributing to cancer-fighting science I participated in two different clinical trials at MD Anderson. The first one tested the effectiveness of a particular combination of chemotherapy drugs (administered in a certain sequence) designed to prepare older patients for stem cell transplants with reduced-intensity conditioning. The second one tested whether a chemotherapy drug called azacitidine (Vidaza) could help prevent a recurrence if administered after a stem cell transplant. I received the drugs as part of the first clinical trial, but was randomly assigned to the group of patients that did not receive the drug as a part of the second. At first, I was a little disappointed. But the way I...