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Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Funds Clinical Trial For Future Patients

Linda Sherman on the right, with her infusion nurse, Kristin Copenheaver-Smith, RN

Donor Story

Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Funds Clinical Trial For Future Patients

Linda Sherman was successfully treated for stage three pancreatic cancer at Mass General Cancer Center. Now, she is funding the very same clinical trial that treated her cancer and gave her hope for the future.

Marie Walton
March 25, 2024

When Linda Sherman was diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer in 2021, she had no idea what her future looked like. But now she is on the other side of a successful treatment regimen, feeling well and helping to ensure that the treatment she received is available to others for years to come.

Receiving Remarkable Care

When Linda was diagnosed in July of 2021, she placed all of her trust in her team at Mass General Cancer Center. After a series of abnormal blood tests and scans, she was called in to the hospital for a meeting with her future oncology team. “The first person who walked into the room was Dr. David Ryan, and he calmly said, ‘You have stage three pancreatic cancer, and we have a clinical trial we’d like to enroll you in,’” Linda recalls. “I’m not sure I heard much after that.”

Being from the greater Boston area, Linda knew she would receive high-quality, compassionate care at Mass General. She went home and asked friends and family about the reputations of her cancer care team: David Ryan, MD, Chief of Hematology and Oncology and Clinical Director of Mass General Cancer Center, Ted Hong, MD, Director of Gastrointestinal Radiation and Carlos Fernandez-del Castillo, MD, Director of the Pancreas and Biliary Surgery Program. Hearing nothing but praise, she agreed to proceed with the suggested course of action. She was immediately enrolled in a novel clinical trial for patients with localized pancreatic cancer, meant to combat as much of the cancer as possible before a patient receives surgery to remove any remaining tumor in the pancreas.

Beating the Odds

In October of 2022, Linda completed the last step of her treatment and has been living her life free of cancer since that day. She now only returns to the hospital for check-ins every three months. Linda credits the work of Drs. Ryan, Hong, and Fernandez-del Castillo with her incredible recovery.

After being successfully treated, Linda and her husband wanted to find a way to thank her care team, and to help provide other patients with the positive treatment experience she’d had. Now cancer-free, she is funding the very same clinical trial that treated her cancer, allowing her doctors to continue the analysis of the results of the trial for an additional three years.

Support from All Areas

Linda’s treatment at Mass General involved providers from across the hospital — oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, nurses, physical therapists, dietitians and acupuncturists. “It was so wonderful to have all of these amazing services right there where I was receiving treatment. All of the folks that helped care for me were unfailingly kind and thoughtful,” she says.

“It’s difficult to express this adequately, but I am so incredibly grateful for the high-quality and consistently excellent care I received at Mass General,” she adds. “Every single person I interacted with, even those just stepping in for a moment to help, were thoughtful, attentive, professional and exceptionally good at what they do. They always made me feel taken care of in ways that I know helped me to focus on getting through the difficult times.” Linda is especially grateful to her infusion nurse, Kristin Copenheaver-Smith, RN, who was an integral member of her care team from chemotherapy all the way to immunotherapy infusions, and Melissa Woolwine, NP, of the Gastrointestinal Cancers Treatment Team, who met with Linda throughout treatment to provide information and support.

A Chance to Say Thank You

Before being diagnosed with cancer, Linda began her journey as a Mass General donor giving annually to the MGH Fund, and as a member of the 1811 Society. After receiving compassionate, personalized care from her team of nurses while in treatment, Linda made a gift to Caring For A Cure, a nurse-led program at Mass General that aims to improve the journey of patients and families being treated for cancer through research, resources and awareness. Following her successful cancer treatment, Linda and her husband wanted to find a way to thank her oncology team.

They approached the team about the possibility of making a philanthropic gift, and were informed that the clinical trial Linda had been a part of was in need of additional funding. They decided to make a gift, and thanks to the Shermans, the trial and related research are now fully funded for another three years.

“It would have been such a shame for the trial to end due to lack of funding — the research we’re doing in this area is extremely promising,” says Dr. Hong.

“We’re just nothing but grateful,” says Linda, her voice full of emotion. “And I hope my story of a positive outcome with the support of Mass General will give hope to others facing a terrible diagnosis.”

To learn more about how you can support pancreatic cancer research at Mass General, please contact us.