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'Glimpse of a revolutionary treatment': Scientists react to miracle cancer vanishing drug trial

News Agencies | Updated on: 9 June 2022, 9:23 IST
Scientists react to miracle cancer vanishing drug trial.

Medical experts and scientists are enthused by the "glimpse of a revolutionary treatment" and hope held out for a possible cancer cure after the results of a clinical trial in the US showed that 12 patients with rectal cancer did not show any signs of the tumour within six months of taking a drug.

The study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York used the drug Dostarlimab and the groundbreaking study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For "the first time in history", a small clinical trial has found that every single rectal cancer patient who received an experimental treatment found that their cancer had vanished.

Dr Hanna Sanoff, of the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the research, said the study was "small but compelling".

In an editorial, she wrote, "These results are cause for great optimism."

She added, "The research had provided what may be an early glimpse of a revolutionary treatment shift".

However, she cautioned that "such an approach cannot yet supplant our current curative treatment approach."

According to her, it remains unclear whether the patients are cured.

"Very little is known about the duration of time needed to find out whether a clinical complete response to Dostarlimab equates to cure," Dr Sanoff stated.

Meanwhile, Dr Kimmie Ng, a colorectal cancer expert at Harvard Medical School, said that the results were "remarkable" and "unprecedented", but said they would need to be replicated in order to establish their significance.

According to the study, Dostarlimab is a checkpoint inhibitor, which works not by directly attacking the cancer itself, but driving a person's immune system to essentially do the work. "These type of immunotherapy drugs do so by blocking proteins that stop the immune system from attacking cancerous cells," it added.

"The 12 patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with rectal cancer, entered remission after taking dostarlimab over a six-month period, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr Luis A. Diaz J. of New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center said this was "the first time this has happened in the history of cancer".

According to experts, Dostarlimab is a drug with laboratory-produced molecules and it acts as substitute antibodies in the human body.

The cancer is undetectable by physical exam; endoscopy; positron emission tomography or PET scans or MRI scans, added Experts. This proves that Dostarlimab can be a 'potential' cure for one of the most deadly common cancers.

According to New York Times, patients involved in the clinical trial earlier underwent treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and invasive surgery that could result in the bowel, urinary, and even sexual dysfunction.

The 18 patients went into the trial expecting to have to go through these procedures as the next step. However, to their surprise, no further treatment was needed.

The findings of this trial have shocked experts and they have pointed out that complete remission in every single patient is "unheard-of".

Dr Alan P. Venook, who is a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, said that the complete remission in every single patient is "unheard-of". He hailed the research as a "world-first".

Experts stated that the research was impressive as not all of the patients suffered significant complications from the drug trial."

There were a lot of happy tears," said Oncologist Dr Andrea Cercek, describing the moment patients found out they were cancer-free as quoted by New York Times.

According to doctors, the patients, during the trial, took Dostarlimab every three weeks for six months.

"It is noteworthy that they were all in similar stages of their cancer. The cancer was locally advanced in the rectum but had not spread to other organs," added doctors.

"At the time of this report, no patients had received chemoradiotherapy or undergone surgery, and no cases of progression or recurrence had been reported during follow-up,' researchers wrote in the study published in the media outlet.

Cancer researchers who reviewed the drug told the media outlet that the treatment looks promising, but a larger-scale trial is needed.


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First published: 9 June 2022, 9:23 IST