Message from the Director: A Week of Adjustment as We Battle COVID-19

Wednesday was a busy day in a lonely cancer center office with a total of 9 conference and Zoom calls peppered throughout the day (starting at 7:30 am), enough to have my cell phone run dry. I also saw 5 rather sick patients with cancer who needed attention and treatment decisions.

Our research and clinical leadership have responded with deliberation and care, guiding with thoughtfulness and a clear focus on safety for all of us. The good news is that the level of engagement, focus, determination and community support is, well, overwhelming. The bad news is that many are scared as they work to adjust their expectations and timelines. It will help when we have a numerator and denominator, and we improve our exposure habits in times of a rampant, untreatable infection that has all of us on edge. Otherwise, every day is Groundhog Day; you need to have the same precautions today as you did yesterday.

The Times reported on the passing of Vittorio Gregotti, age 92, from COVID-19 in Italy. He designed the renovation of the Barcelona Olympic Park. My wife Deb and I jogged through it last year.

But I also noted that Starbucks is reopening in China (who would have thought?) with extensive efforts at modifying risk through cleaning, contact management and an emphasis on take-out, they have figured out how to adjust and return to operations.

Japan and China are reporting success of an anti-viral developed for influenza, Favipiravir, that reduces COVID-19 viral load in symptomatic, if not severe, cases. A safety vaccine trial in normal donors is beginning at NIH.

Somewhere, and I hope soon, we will find the means to counter, combat and reduce the burden of COVID-19. It sounds like our approach to cancer, and we have come a long way. Keep your discovery engine going and stay well. Research, in all its forms, remains the backbone of medical advances and all of you are at the center of that progress.

Stan Gerson, MD
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center