The most famous clinical trial of all time, The Elephant Man Trial took place in London in 2006. The trial, which was testing a new cancer treatment called TGN1412, seemed harmless to the eight men who took part in it; medical professionals had assured them that the worst symptoms would only include a headache and nausea.
But the results were much more gruesome than that. Shortly after they were given the doses, all of the patients began writhing in pain and vomiting.One of the participants lost his fingers and toes, while another had to have his foot partially amputated. The trial earned its nickname, The Elephant Man Trial because one participant’s head swelled up so large that his girlfriend teased him about looking like an elephant.
No one is completely sure what went wrong, but the patients have a few ideas. One suggests that the timing of the dosage made it dangerous; researchers spent 90 minutes slowly injecting animals with the drug, but took a mere six minutes to inject it into the human subjects. Another claims that the preliminary animal testing was inaccurate because instead of testing on a bonobo, whose DNA is a 98 percent match to humans, the agency cut costs and used a macaque, whose DNA is only a 94 percent match. These men may never know exactly what went wrong that fateful day, or how it will continue to affect their lives.