Patient Perspective: My Clinical Trial Was Cancelled

April 1, 2020

This perspective is provided by Rene Roach, who is living with  Stage IV colorectal cancer and is a patient at Johns Hopkins University.

I don’t have COVID-19. But the clinical trial that could save my life has been put on hold due to COVID-19.

My name is Rene Roach. I’m struggling with a recurrence of Stage 4 colorectal cancer in my lymph nodes. It’s a disease that’s likely to kill me without treatment, and surgery, the gold standard of treatments, is not an option for me. I was in a clinical trial. But now that trial has been put on indefinite hold as researchers worldwide join the fight against COVID-19.

I’m not alone. Clinical trials in many other areas have also ceased as researchers race to find a COVID-19 therapy or vaccine. I can still get chemotherapy, but not the clinical trial that had given me hope--of a cure, at best, or anyway enough strength to withstand the rigors of surgery.

Before COVID-19 hit, I was pre-screening for a promising trial at Duke Medical Center. Originally biopsy slides were requested from Johns Hopkins, but after two weeks it was discovered that there was not enough tissue to create the required slides. The research team at Duke reached out to Medstar Hospital to request slides from my original tumor when the trial sponsor, along with many other sponsors of clinical trials in many countries for many serious conditions, brought these trials to a halt. As I write, there is no word on when my trial will reopen.

I hope the chemo I am currently on keeps me stable until this crisis is over. But in some cases clinics are delaying even chemo. I am fortunate beyond words that I am still getting chemo at Johns Hopkins. Without it, my cancer would most likely grow and spread.

There will most likely come a time when my chemo stops working.  With a COVID-19 vaccine perhaps 12-18 months off, many like me will go without the benefits a clinical trial might bring, lingering in an uneasy state of suspended animation.  We as a community need to find a way to open these trials back up.

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