BOSTON – A Cape Cod man’s last-chance treatment for cancer has been postponed by the government shutdown because new clinical trials cannot begin until they are registered on a federal website, which has been forced to stop processing applications.
Leo Finn said his bone scan was canceled at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston Wednesday, and the 48-year-old father of three is now unlikely to receive an experimental drug for his metastatic bile duct cancer next month as he had expected.
“It’s been devastating for me and for my doctor, who was really excited about this drug,” said Finn of Bourne. “My idea is to get the word out that this is happening, since there may be other patients in the same situation.”
Finn’s plight highlights the concern among hospital officials and scientists in the Boston area and across the country that it could eventually have a far-reaching impact on patients and research.
Finn said he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February, after tumors had spread to his liver and bones. At first, doctors tried standard chemotherapy drugs, but they shrank his tumors for only a short time.
His Dana-Farber oncologist recommended that he try Acabozantinib, a drug approved for thyroid cancer but still experimental to treat other cancers.
But before he could get the drug, the hospital had to launch a clinical trial, because no other patients with his type of cancer are receiving it. But the registration website, www.clinicaltrials.gov, is not able to process new requests.
Dana-Farber officials said they could not speak about a specific patient, but they said staff met Wednesday to review the files of patients expected to be treated in research studies over the next few weeks and confirmed they had found one patient whose treatment would have to be postponed. “As best we know at the current time, this is the only [patient],” said Dr. Bruce Johnson, chief clinical research officer at Dana-Farber.
But Finn’s case appears not to be an isolated example.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told the Associated Press that each week the shutdown continues, the NIH hospital in Bethesda, Md., will have to turn away 200 patients, 30 of them children, seeking to enroll in studies, often for last-resort treatments after they have exhausted all other options.