June 17, 2022

New Cancer Treatment is 100% Effective in Small Trial

New Cancer Treatment is 100% Effective in Small Trial

A small glimmer of hope in what feels like a world ravaged by mass shootings and skyrocketing gas prices: a small trial of a new cancer drug in 14 patients with colorectal cancer resulted in 100% tumor removal in every single patient. The New York Times dubbed the results “astonishing” and the news has quickly spread around the world. 

And while 14 patients is still a very small sample size for a study, oncology experts are pointing out that it’s still literally unheard of for any intervention to completely wipe out cancer in every single person studied. “All 14 patients? The odds are exceedingly low and really unheard of in oncology,” Andrea Cercek, the study’s lead author and an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told The Washington Post. 

The drug will need further trials, of course, but for now, those who have been affected by cancer and those in the research community are celebrating what could be a game-changer for cancer treatment.

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The Study Details

The actual study was published in the Journal of New England Medicine and detailed how the current treatment approach to rectal cancer, while effective in giving a 77% survival rate for 3-years for many patients, is also a “grueling” one. A combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can result in ​​complications that include,

  • Neuropathy
  • Infertility
  • Bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction 

Hence, the hunt for a treatment that can be effective but minimize some of the harsh complications. In this case, the treatment being studied was dostarlimab, which is a new IV-delivered drug specifically designed to treat cancer. It blocks a protein in cancer cells that the cancer uses to stop the immune system from being able to fight the cancer.

Dostarlimab-gxly (Jemperli, GlaxoSmithKline LLC) was approved by the FDA in August 2021 for adult patients with mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) recurrent or advanced solid tumors who had no other treatment options. According to the FDA, some of the adverse reactions of the drug included,

  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Sepsis 
  • Acute kidney injury

In the colorectal cancer study, 9 doses of IV dostarlimab were given over the course of 6 months to all 14 patients who had not started any other type of treatment yet. All of the patients also had the same genetic instability in their cancer, called mismatch repair-deficiency. This genetic trait is a deficiency of the body’s normal function to “fix” mistakes that crop up during cell division and result in mutations. According to The Washington Post, 5-10% of all rectal cancer patients have this genetic deficiency and it usually makes chemotherapy less effective for them.  

At the beginning of the study, all of the patients had demonstrated “knotty, discolored” tumors. But by the end of the six months? All traces of the tumors had completely vanished. All biopsies, scans, and physical exams revealed not a single piece of cancer still existed. 

Even more remarkable, the patients were diverse and none suffered any serious side effects from the medication; none are so far requiring any additional treatment. At the moment, there are four other patients who are undergoing treatment with the same drug and are so far demonstrating the same positive pattern of complete disappearance of the cancer. 

Hope for the Future

While experts are still cautioning that much more research needs to be done—and even these patients followed for years to ensure the cancer doesn’t return—it is offering some glimpse of hope. The drug may be an option for other adults with cancer who also have the mismatch repair-deficiency and it might hopefully result in more cancer breakthroughs in the future as well. 

Some experts also pointed out that the trial could raise awareness about the importance of genetic testing in cancer, as treatment can be tailored to what type of genetic traits are involved in the cancer, such as the mismatch repair-deficiency. Treatment can then be tailored to what kind of genetic traits are involved in the cancer. 

Cancer is a disease that shows no mercy, takes victims of all ages, and leaves scars in families for generations, so any hope on the horizon is being celebrated by many. On social media, many people expressed their joy that the trial could leave to more breakthroughs in the future. 

“This is wonderful news!!!” commented Warren Pughsley.  I am always excited to hear some people best cancer. My wife did not, so I feel like anytime I see some make it, she played a part in it because she worked in the field. Congrats to the patients and their families! God bless!”

And Sascha Roth, the first patient in the trial who was even able to continue her running regime through her treatment on the drug in 2019, has already lost her father to cancer and will soon lose her mother to cancer. She said that she feels enormous gratitude and hope for what this trial has given her. 

“I feel a universal feeling of gratitude — but also hope for others,” she told The Washington Post. “Hope for all cancers.”

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