A reader asks how to evaluate placing a cat into a clinical trial:
Q: My cat has an injection-site sarcoma, and I’m thinking of enrolling him in a clinical study that will look at a new way to deliver chemotherapy. What are some things I should consider?
A: Clinical trials have resulted in better treatments, improved survival of pets and new ways to predict the success of treatments, but there’s a lot to consider. First, talk to your veterinarian. Ask how the treatment your cat is or will be receiving differs from the treatment being investigated. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you if participation in the study will have a positive or negative effect on your cat’s quality of life, as well as other pros and cons of the study.
The study’s research coordinator can tell you if there are any costs to enrolling in the study (usually not), what treatments and aftercare your cat will receive, the type of results you may expect and what the potential side effects of the treatment might be. Your veterinarian and the research coordinator can help you decide whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential side effects.
Cancer can be painful, even if it’s being treated. Make sure your cat will receive pain medication during the study. That should be standard in any clinical trial.
Some clinical trials are placebo-controlled, meaning that some pets get the treatment and some receive a placebo (inert substance). If this study is placebo-controlled and your cat is in the placebo group, ask if he would be eligible afterward to receive the treatment being investigated.
A major factor is your cat’s temperament. Is he a laid-back kitty or one who’s easily stressed? How will he react to having to go in for treatment?
Finally, you should be free to remove your cat from the study at any time if you think that’s best for him.
Having this information will help you and your veterinarian decide if participation in the clinical trial will benefit your cat.
Read more, including what to do about pets left in hot cars, in this week’s Pet Connection!