For the first time in history, a team of scientists from the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York was able to conduct an experimental immunotherapy trial with a 100% success rate.
The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 05 June 2022 and has taken the world by storm. The surprising results of this trial have given cancer patients all over the world new hope.
About the Patients and the Trail:
There were a total of 12 patients with colorectal cancer involved in this experimental study, who all received the same treatment and got the same results.
In this MSK clinical study for rectal cancer, the patients were given a dosage of dostarlimab every three weeks for six months. It was also decided that they would need to follow up with traditional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery after drug therapy.
Later, after the drug therapy and undergoing at least 6 months of follow-up when the patients were prepared to go into chemo or therapies they received the good news.
Patient Sascha Roth says she was both stunned and ecstatic and filled with happiness when she got a call from
Dr. Cercek about her clear test results. She participated in six months of treatment as the first patient in this clinical trial.
Sascha describes her call with Dr. Cercek as:
“Dr. Cercek told me a team of doctors examined my tests and since they couldn’t find any signs of cancer, Dr. Cercek said there was no reason to make me endure radiation therapy.”
The scientists found no traces of the tumor in the body of all other patients. The same results followed and the rectal cancer vanished after immunotherapy in every case. There was no need for other therapies such as radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy.
What’s the most astonishing part is that the disease has not reappeared in any of the patients, who have been cancer-free for up to two years.
Dr. Luis Diaz Jr of Memorial Sloan Kettering, who is one of the authors of this paper in his interview with the New York times said:
“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer.”
The patients also had no severe side effects during their therapy. However, it is considered that not enough people participated in the trial to emphasize the many bad responses that can be induced by the medicine.
Dr. Andra Cercek also adds:
It’s incredibly rewarding to get these happy tears and happy emails from the patients in this study who finish treatment and realize, ‘Oh my God, I get to keep all the normal body functions that I feared I might lose to radiation or surgery.’
About the Drug that Vanished Cancer:
This study was inspired by a previous experiment headed by Dr. Diaz, in which patients were given a medication called pembrolizumab. Patients in that experiment, who had advanced cancer that had said no to traditional therapy, saw their tumors stabilize, shrink, and even disappear.
This current trial was run with the drug dostarlimab, and this time it was used on patients whose cancer had yet to spread throughout the body.
Dostarlimab, the miracle drug is being described as a checkpoint inhibitor that urges a person’s immune system to identify and attack cancer cells effectively.
Dr. Cercek explains in an interview with CNN that “This type of therapy works in specific cancer cells,” Dr. Cercek said, further explaining that the patients “lack a gene which enables them to repair their DNA, ultimately leading to mutations.”
She also said: “The immunotherapy shrank the tumors much faster than I expected. My research nurse Jenna Sinopoli would tell me, ‘The patient has only received one treatment and already they’re not bleeding anymore and their terrible pain has gone away. Patients came to my office after just two or three treatments and said, ‘This is incredible. I feel normal again.’ ”
The cancer expert, Hanna K Sanoff from the University of North Carolina, said in an interview: “Whether the results of this small study conducted at the MSK Cancer Centre will be generalizable to a broader population of patients with rectal cancer is not known yet.”
Dr. Diaz hopes and says: “it’s the tip of the iceberg.” He further adds: “We are investigating if this same method may help other cancers where the treatments are often life-altering and tumors can be MMRd. We are currently enrolling patients with gastric (stomach), prostate, and pancreatic cancers.”
While the research is still in its earliest stages, the findings have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine and will be presented at the nation’s largest clinical oncology conference in June 2022.