The story behind clinical trials: Sezgin’s story so far

Since 2012, Sezgin Hick has been receiving treatment following a late-stage ovarian cancer diagnosis. After surgery and different combinations of chemotherapy, her cancer was no longer responding to standard therapies. It was at this point Sezgin’s consultant recommended a Phase 1 clinical trial at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI), part of HCA Healthcare UK. Read more about Sezgin and her experience of being on a clinical trial.

Sezgin, a mother of two, was 51 years old when she was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Following her diagnosis, her medical team explained that while her cancer was not curative, there were treatment options available to manage it. After undergoing a total abdominal hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingo-oophrectomy (this is a procedure where the uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed) she then had multiple rounds of chemotherapy. The latter treatment was to target the cancer which had spread to her abdomen and lymph nodes.

Whilst this treatment was successful at managing the progression of Sezgin’s cancer for several years, in 2020 she required additional surgery to remove tumours in her abdomen, and in 2021, she was told that standard-line treatments were no longer working. It was here that Sezgin’s consultant discussed with her the possibility of a Phase 1 clinical trial. 

Exploring the possibilities of clinical trials

Phase 1 clinical trials are first in human trials, this means it's the earliest opportunity for a person to access innovative drugs and therapies. For patients like Sezgin, these trials represent new treatment options, when all standard therapies have already been explored.

When Sezgin’s consultant discussed the possibility of taking part in a clinical trial, she was very open to the idea, Sezgin says:

Since my diagnosis in 2012, I have had lots of different treatments, and it has been incredibly draining, both physically and psychologically, and hearing that the chemotherapy was having a reduced effect was incredibly upsetting. However, after my consultant delivered this news, she spoke to me about my suitability for a new Phase 1 clinical trial which is designed to target ovarian cancer. After doing lots of research and having extensive conversations with my family, we felt it was the right decision and I decided to go for it.

Because a clinical trial is exactly that – a trial – I was aware that it might not be able to shrink the tumours – but agreeing to be a part of the treatment wasn’t just for me – by being on this trial, I could potentially change the lives of patients diagnosed with cancer in the future, and for me that is very powerful.

Changing the course of cancer treatment for future patients

For Sezgin, as well as presenting a new treatment option for her personally, she is passionate about helping future ovarian cancer patients: “Not long after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, I had to stop working as an ITU nurse because of the intensive treatment I was undergoing and how vulnerable working there would make me. As a nurse, it made me feel like I wasn’t able to adequately give back to society – however by taking part in a clinical trial - I felt it was my way of giving back and leaving my mark.”

After deciding to go ahead, Sezgin had several tests to ensure her cancer was clinically compatible with the trial. This included genomic profiling, which looks at the individual characteristics of a tumour. These tests confirmed Sezgin’s suitability, and she began the cancer vaccine clinical trial in November 2021.

Describing her experience, Sezgin said “I’ve been used to being on and off chemotherapy treatment for the last decade – this treatment was very different – rather than being tired, lethargic and nauseas like how I felt after my chemo, the only side effect I felt was a slightly sore arm where the injection was administered.

Embarking on her second clinical trial

Clinical trials are closely monitored for safety and efficacy, for Sezgin this particular treatment only had a minimal effect on her cancer, and the clinical team at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute advised her of an alternative Phase 1 trial which could be more effective. Sezgin decided to go ahead with the second trial and received her first dose in January.

Sezgin remains positive about the importance of clinical trials and her role in advancing future medicine “As I embark on this second clinical trial, I have nothing but admiration for the scientists who are working to find new and emerging therapies to help patients like me. Their tireless work might not be able to have a huge impact on my cancer, but it will certainly have a positive impact for the next generation of patients to come.” 

When asked what advice she would give to those who might be considering joining a clinical trial, she added: “Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy started out as a clinical trial, and now, thanks to the generations of cancer patients who were willing to take part in clinical trials before me, it has meant that I have benefitted from chemotherapy which has helped keep me alive over the last decade. I wanted to do the same for other patients. I often think, how many lives could I potentially save by being on this trial? It's an incredibly powerful thing to think about.”

Learn more about Sarah Cannon Research Institute and the care it provides

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.