A historic rectal cancer study published June 5th in The New England Journal of Medicine reported historic results, showing that every participant ended the trial cancer free.
The trial featured 12 rectal cancer patients, all of which received the drug dostarlimab every three weeks. They also completed treatments and follow-ups. The New York Times reported that each of the trial’s participants possessed a gene mutation that prevents cells from repairing damage to DNA.
Dostarlimab is a checkpoint inhibitor drug that identifies cancer cells to the immune system. This identification leads to their destruction. Marcus Robertson of Becker’s adds that, on average, 1 in 5 patients will see adverse reactions to drugs similar to dostarlimab, and 3- to 5-percent experience severe complications. This makes the results even more extraordinary.
“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” study co-author Luis Diaz Jr., MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, told The New York Times.
Cancer experts from across the healthcare industry responded with similar optimism. Dr. Alan Vernook, M.D., who had no involvement with the rectal cancer study, believes the small sample size or nature of the cancer may have played a role in the dramatic results. However, he also called the results “unheard of.”
Dr. Hanna Sanoff, M.D., of the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was also not involved, called the study, “small, but compelling.” Lastly, Dr. Kimmie Ng, an expert on colorectal cancer at Harvard Medical School said the study was “remarkable” and “unprecedented.”