A small clinical study conducted by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center showed that every patient with rectal cancer treated with experimental immunotherapy went into remission.
According to Memorial Sloane Kettering, one of the participants, Sasha Roth, had been preparing for radiation therapy in Manhattan for several weeks. Then the doctors told her that she was now free of cancer.
“I told my family,” Roth told The New York Times. “They didn’t believe me.”
To date, the same remarkable results have been observed in 14 patients. The study was published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine. All patients had locally advanced colorectal cancer, a rare mutation with a lack of mismatch correction (MMRd).
They were treated for six months with an immunotherapy drug called dostarlimab from the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which helped fund the study. According to the researchers, the cancer was not present in any of them – it can not be detected by physical examination, endoscopy, PET scans or MRI scanners.
A dose of the drug costs about $ 11,000, writes The Times. It is given to each patient every three weeks for six months and it can open cancer cells and the immune system can destroy them.
“This new treatment is a form of immunotherapy that blocks cancer cells from blocking the ‘shoot me’ signal, allowing the immune system to destroy them,” said Dr. CBS News Medical Assistant. David Agus explains.
“Treatment involves a type of rectal cancer in which the DNA repair system does not work. When this system does not work, errors in proteins increase and the immune system recognizes them and kills the cancer cells.”
After six months or more of follow-up, patients no longer needed standard treatment with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, showed no signs of cancer, and did not return to any of the patients present. Six months to 25 months after the end of the test.
“It’s amazing that in a clinical trial, almost every patient responds to a drug that almost no one has heard of,” Agus said.
Another surprise of the study was that none of the patients had significant adverse effects.
“Surgery and radiation have a lasting effect on childbirth, sexual health, and the functioning of the intestines and bladder.” Andrea Serchek, medical oncologist and chief investigator of the study, in an MSK information release. “The consequences for quality of life are significant, especially as standard treatment affects fertility potential. This approach can have a major impact as the incidence of rectal cancer increases in young people.”
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” Cherchek said, “receiving happy tears and happy emails from patients in this study, they understand when they finish treatment,‘ Oh my God, I’ll keep all the normal functions of my body that I’m afraid I’ll lose. radiation or surgery. ‘”
The researchers agreed that the test should now be repeated in a much larger study, noting that the small study was targeted only at patients with a rare genetic signature in the tumor. But they say seeing 100% complete remission in tested patients is a very promising early signal.
Dr. Hannah K., of the Linberger Complex Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina. Sanof, who did not participate in the study, said it was unclear whether the patients had recovered.
“Very little is known about the length of time it takes to find out whether a clinical response to dostarlimab is equivalent to a complete cure,” the doctor said. Sanoff wrote in an editorial accompanying the newspaper.
However, he noted that “these results are a cause for great optimism.”
Approximately 30 patients are expected to be included in the trial, which will provide detailed information on how safe and effective the friends are in this group.
“Although longer follow-up is needed to assess response time, this MMRd will change the practice for patients with locally advanced rectal cancer,” said co-leader of the study, Dr. Louis Diaz Jr., head of the MSK Severe Tumors Oncology Department.