Alberta Cancer Foundation

Clinical Trials: A Personal Experience

Daryl Johnson, middle, seated, shares his experience at the 2017 International Clinical Trials Day at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. Image courtesy of Bell Media

as told to Mae Kroeis

Daryl Johnson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995. An initial surgery helped alleviate his symptoms, but when things worsened in the early 2000s, he was prescribed pills and then injections every three months. By 2013, Johnson’s treatment was no longer working. Johnson was sent to Dr. Daniel Heng, a staff medical oncologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, and was invited to take part in a clinical trial that has changed the course of prostate cancer treatment. Made possible thanks in part to the generous donors of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, this trial utilized hormone pills that were easier for patients to tolerate, instead of being treated with chemotherapy right away. Johnson accepted, and the medicine he received has been working wonders for him ever since — confirmed with check-ups twice a year and lab work every three months. Today, at 90 years old, Johnson enjoys regular activities such as woodworking and gardening with his wife at their home in Drumheller, Alta. Johnson shares his story.

“I’m so very grateful for the medicine that Dr. Heng gave me and for what comes from cancer research.”— Daryl Johnson, clinical trial patient

“I’ll start where I rst found out I had cancer, back in ’95. I was having some trouble with my back and trouble urinating too, so the doctor sent me to the hospital in Calgary where they removed some of the prostate gland. Then a few years down the road it got bad again and they started giving me various things to slow it down, which it did.

Then in 2013, my PSA (prostate-specific antigen level), which is a check on the cancer, went up to 86 and they like to keep it at two. They sent me to a specialist in Calgary to see about chemotherapy or radiation to slow it down. I saw Dr. Heng, and he said, ‘If you want to, I can give you this medicine that has been made for this. It’s still in trial.’ I have to say that it was quite a relief that I didn’t have to take chemo or radiation, and less than three months later my PSA was down to two. It was working, there’s no question about it. It was doing the job.

I’ve been taking the capsules just about five years now and I have no side effects from it at all that I know of. That’s been really great. As far as they know it doesn’t cure the cancer but keeps it from spreading. But I’m not a guy to get worried or upset over everything. Life comes and goes, and we have to live it with what we’ve got.

About four weeks ago, they sent me into Calgary to get a scan to see if the cancer had spread and they told me they couldn’t find any anywhere. So I guess I’m really lucky. The cancer research has been really good for me. I’m so very grateful for the medicine that Dr. Heng gave me and for what comes from cancer research.”

Learn more about clinical trials by visiting