CLEVELAND – As COVID-19 spread, some cancer centers stopped enrolling patients in clinical trials, dashing the hopes of people hoping to try experimental therapies to extend their lives.
But one man who is fighting pancreatic cancer wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer – despite coronavirus.
When admissions into cancer research trials near his hometown were halted, Jingsong Mo, 50, of Canton, Michigan, hit the road.
“I was pretty devastated, to be honest, because here I was out of chemo and there is no other treatment available,” he said.
Mo has stage four pancreatic cancer. Standard treatments worked well for two years, but the cancer came back – just as coronavirus started to spread.
“He, unfortunately, was faced with two institutions where he had been getting his care that had closed their facilities to new enrollment into clinical trials,” said Dale Shepard, M.D., Ph.D., an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Mo searched tirelessly for a clinical trial that was still accepting patients, despite COVID-19. He found one more than two hours away at Cleveland Clinic.
“I was looking for anything that could help me, and for a patient like my situation, all I can ask for, all I can pray for, is a little bit of hope,” Mo said.
Every week, Mo travels from his home in Michigan to Cleveland for an experimental immunotherapy infusion.
“We’re trying to get the immune system, the patient’s own immune system, to recognize that cancer is being an unusual cell that shouldn’t be there and to try to get rid of it,” said Dr. Shepard.
It’ll be a few weeks before doctors know if the treatment is working, but the prospect keeps Mo going.
“In this case having the opportunity to try it, to me, was pretty uplifting,” said Mo.
Dr. Shepard encourages people with advanced cancers to be persistent when seeking treatment options – regardless of COVID-19.
He said because of coronavirus social distancing measures, there are more virtual options available than ever before, making it easier to connect with doctors across the country.