Cancer Survivor Finds Reward in Clinical Trials Career at the KU Cancer Center

Alex Dinkel brings personal experience to his cancer treatment research at the KU Cancer Center.

Alex Dinkel brings personal experience to his cancer treatment research at the KU Cancer Center.

Alex Dinkel’s career path began taking shape when he was just 16 years old. That’s when he was diagnosed with a rare form of Ewing’s Sarcoma in his skull. He underwent multiple surgeries, 30 weeks of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“After cancer, I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to help others and give back to the people who helped me fight my fight. It wasn’t until my wife and I moved to Kansas City when I realized clinical research was that calling,” Dinkel said.

Dinkel is a member of the Investigator-Initiated Trials (IITs) team at the University of Kansas Clinical Research Center at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, which is supported through JCERT funding. IITs are clinical trials developed by physicians who treat patients as well as conduct research. As a regulatory lead, Dinkel works closely with the principal investigator to ensure study documentations, protocols, study team members and patient materials meet strict standards. Regulatory experts like Dinkel are vital to new therapy development and are involved in each stage of it, from conception to final Food & Drug Administration approval.

“The IITs illustrate the capabilities of our investigators,” Dinkel said. “They are turning clinical observations into ideas that could change the future of patient treatment. The investigators’ concepts are new, fresh and ambitious, and may be a source of hope to those who have none left.”

These concepts are also complex. One of Dinkel’s responsibilities is ensuring the details of each clinical trial are translated into an easy-to-understand description in the consent form, so participants have a better explanation about their treatment. According to Dinkel, one misconception he often clarifies is that IIT concepts are limited to altering chemotherapy or radiation regimens. Some trials study the use of novel drugs or new ways to use already-approved drugs.

Prior to joining KU Cancer Center, Dinkel worked for a global clinical research organization. He loved the company but wanted a more active role in clinical research and to gain a perspective of how research is conducted at a treatment site.

“Being at KU Cancer Center is a perfect fit because when I joined, I was already receiving my follow-up care at there. Plus, I’m a die-hard KU fan,” Dinkel said. “I am excited to work in oncology because my cancer experience is what set me on this career path.”  

Now a 12-year cancer survivor, Dinkel helps play a part in treatment research for those who may be earlier in their cancer journey.

“My history with cancer is a daily reminder to do the best job I can at work,” Dinkel said. “I believe by experiencing cancer in the way that I did, I can be a part of helping show patients not only the personal benefit they may receive from our trials, but also how the knowledge gained from their involvement may help patients in the future.”

Learn more about clinical trials at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.