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The science behind the cancer cure

  • Published
    9th Jun, 2022
Context

In a medical trial, 12 patients in the US were completely cured of rectal cancer without requiring any surgery or chemotherapy. 

About

Findings:

  • The trial showed that immunotherapy alone – without any chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgeries that have been staples of cancer treatment.
  • It could completely cure the patients with a particular kind of rectal cancer called ‘mismatch repair deficient’ cancer”.
  • The trial used a monoclonal antibody called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months for the treatment of a particular kind of stage two or three rectal cancer.
  • All 12 patients had completed the treatment and were followed for six to 25 months after.
  • The response too was rapid, with symptoms resolving in 81% of the patients within nine weeks of starting the therapy.

What is this deficiency, and how was it cured?

  • Mismatch repair deficient’ cancer is most common among colorectal, gastrointestinal, and endometrial cancers.
  • Patients suffering from this condition lack the genes to correct typos in the DNA that occur naturally while cells make copies.
  • The immunotherapy belongs to a category called PD1 blockades that are now recommended for the treatment of such cancers rather than chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • PD1 is a type of protein that regulates certain functions of the immune system, including by suppressing T cell activity, and PD1 blockade therapy looks to release the T cells from this suppression.

     

Dostarlimab:

  • Dostarlimab, an immunotherapy drug from GlaxoSmithKline, is a type of monoclonal antibody that blocks proteins called checkpoints which are made up of immune system cells, such as T cells, and some cancer cells.
  • These checkpoints help keep immune responses from acting too strong and may prevent T cells from killing cancer cells.
  • When these checkpoints are blocked, T cells are free to kill cancer cells more efficiently.
  • Examples of checkpoint proteins found on T cells or cancer cells include PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4 and B7-1. Some immune checkpoint inhibitors, called PD-1 inhibitors, are already used to treat various types of cancers.
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