Exploring ethics and Canadian clinical cancer trials, 1978-1998

Fedir Razumenko

Award: 2019 Post-Doctoral Fellow

My AMS postdoctoral research project examines an historical trajectory shaping clinical research and its regulation in Canada. I explore the history of Canadian cooperative clinical cancer trials to trace the evolution of health research ethics. By analyzing approaches to the evaluation of anti-tumor treatment modalities in the process of clinical investigation, I aim to provide a frame of reference for a deeper understanding of what ethically acceptable health research means. This project attempts to show that the most effective forms of ethical regulation, historically pertaining to cancer clinical trials, were both protective of the legitimate interests of research participants and not restrictive with respect to investigation. I argue that a shift to more patient-oriented cancer clinical trials during the 1990s issued from the trialists’ culture of experimentation, which induced the development of health research ethics and the elaboration of guidelines to regulate it. My project has the objective to demonstrate how and why this significant shift occurred in the Canadian context. This is especially important in light of the current pan-Canadian Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). Given that such contemporary initiatives are rooted in historical developments, this project has the potential to influence public discourse and inform policy decisions around the challenges related to the integration of clinical research into cancer care.