Weinfurt Delivers X-Sig Lecture Regarding Success Expectations of Advanced Stage Cancer

The Science Center at Gettysburg College (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

The Science Center at Gettysburg College (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

By Cameron D’Amica, Staff Writer

Kevin Weinfurt,  Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Population and Health Sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine spoke for the Spring 2019 X-SIG Seminar Series. Weinfurt gave two lectures at Gettysburg College, one general lecture on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6:00 p.m., entitled “Advancing Science Despite the Psychological Quirkiness of Scientists” and a lecture on Friday, Feb. 5 at 1:00 p.m., entitled “Is it OK for People with Advanced Stage Cancer to Hold Unrealistic Expectations of Success?”

Friday’s lecture covered real research that Weinfurt took part in that assessed the validity of informed consent in participation of patients in Phase 1 oncology trials. Phase 1 oncology trials are first-in-human trials of new anti-tumor agents that have uncertain side effects and unknown benefits. Although there is a historical response rate of only 2-5%, many patients expressed a high expectation of effectiveness in their condition. Weinfurt discussed the informed consent of these patients and whether they truly understood the consent form given to them before participating.

He continued to explain the difference between and patient’s expectations and probability, along with discussing the different points of view of the researcher and the person under study. He explained how the subjects of study have their own point of view of the questions they are being asked, and that researchers need to understand what a patient’s answers mean.

Weinfurt finally explained how answers serve functions, and the question of “How did you choose your answer?” is important. He elaborated that only 16% of people in the studies of patients in Phase 1 oncology trials referenced the opinion of medical professionals and the consent form in their reasoning for expected success. 85% of people who had 80% positive expectations for their treatment referenced positive thinking expressions.

Weinfurt brought up other important aspects of research, such as that fact that persons under study may have other motivations for providing answers, and researchers must realize the problem with the questions. Researchers in the Phase 1 trials were not receiving “discovered” answers from patients but “constructed” answers.

After the informative lecture on conducting research, specifically, research on informed consent of patients, Weinfurt conducted a discussion where the audience asked him questions about his research.

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Author: Cameron D'Amica

Cameron (Cam) D'Amica '22 is a staff writer and copyeditor for The Gettysburgian.

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