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In a first, all Cancer patients given experimental drug Dostarlimab see tumour disappear

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A total of 12 patients have completed treatment with Dostarlimab and have undergone at least 6 months of follow-up. All 12 patients had a clinical complete response, with no evidence of tumour on magnetic resonance imaging, 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose–positron-emission tomography, endoscopic evaluation, digital rectal examination, or biopsy.(Photo for representation)

In a what has turned out to be quite a miracle cure, a dozen rectal cancer patients saw their tumours completely disappear after they received an experimental drug called Dostarlimab for six months. None of the patients experienced significant side effects from the treatment.

Details of the small trial, conducted at the MSK Cancer Center in New York City, were published Sunday (June 5) in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

A total of 12 patients have completed treatment with Dostarlimab and have undergone at least 6 months of follow-up. All 12 patients (100%; 95% confidence interval, 74 to 100) had a clinical complete response, with no evidence of tumour on magnetic resonance imaging, 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose–positron-emission tomography, endoscopic evaluation, digital rectal examination, or biopsy. 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 (range, 6 to 25 months). No adverse events of grade 3 or higher have been reported,” NEJM has stated.

"I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer," in that this is the first cancer trial in which every patient entered remission, Dr. Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr., one of the trial leaders and a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center,  told The New York Times.

The 12 trial participants all have a type of rectal cancer that tends to be resistant to chemotherapy and radiation and is known as "mismatch repair-deficient" rectal cancer. This type of cancer emerges when cells' mechanisms for repairing DNA falter. Normally, as cells make copies of their DNA, specific enzymes work to correct any typos that may crop in the genetic code. However, when the genes that code for these copy-editing enzymes are faulty, cells end up accumulating DNA typos that can lead to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (opens in new tab).

Dostarlimab is a drug with laboratory-produced molecules that act as substitute antibodies in the human body.

According to the New York Times, the patients involved in the clinical trial faced gruelling previous treatments to obliterate their cancer, such as chemotherapy, radiation and invasive surgery that could result in bowel, urinary and even sexual dysfunction. The patients went into the trial expecting to have to go through these as the next step. However, to their surprise, no further treatment was needed.

For the trial, patients took Dostarlimab every three weeks for six months. They were all in similar stages of their cancer - it was locally advanced in the rectum but had not spread to other organs.

The cancer researchers who reviewed the drug told the New York Times that the treatment looks promising, but a larger-scale trial is needed to see if it will work for more patients and if the cancers are truly in remission.