(WJW) – A small cancer trial is showing remarkable results. Every person in the trial – 14 so far – is in complete remission.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) clinical trial was for patients who have rectal cancer with a particular mutation. The results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“The immunotherapy shrank the tumors much faster than I expected,” says Dr. Andrea Cercek. “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.’” Dr. Cercek recalls: “Patients came to my office after just two or three treatments and said, ‘This is incredible. I feel normal again.’”
The medication given, called dostarlimab and sold under the brand name Jemperli, is an immunotherapy drug used in the treatment of endometrial cancer.
“One young man and his family just sat in stunned silence when I told them his cancer had disappeared,” recalls Dr. Cercek. “Then they thanked us over and over.” She continues, “A young woman looked at the screen during an examination and asked, ‘Where is the tumor?’ ‘It’s gone,’ we told her.”
Sascha, then 38, was the clinical trial’s first patient.
“Dr. Cercek told me a team of doctors examined my tests,” recalls Sascha. “And since they couldn’t find any signs of cancer, Dr. Cercek said there was no reason to make me endure radiation therapy.”
Sascha underwent six months of treatment.
The MSK clinical trial was investigating if immunotherapy alone could beat rectal cancer that had not spread to other tissues.
In every case, the rectal cancer disappeared after immunotherapy without the need for the standard treatments of radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy.
The cancer has not returned in any of the patients, who have been cancer-free for up to two years.
So what’s next? MSK is looking for more patients to enroll in the clinical trial.
Dr. Diaz is a co-author on the study. “Our message is: Get tested if you have rectal cancer to see if the tumor is MMRd. No matter what stage the cancer is, we have a trial at MSK that may help you.”
Dr. Diaz says he hopes “it’s the tip of the iceberg” in the fight against cancer.
Click here for more on the study.