A groundbreaking new therapy, which helped eradicate cancer completely from a woman who was diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer and told by doctors that she would only be able to live for four months, is exciting doctors like never before. While still in an experimental stage, doctors believe that the pioneering development could mark a “paradigm shift” in cancer research and alter the very way that we look at the deadly disease.
The success of the pioneering new cancer therapy has been published in Nature Medicine journal.
Judy Perkins, who is a resident of Florida, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer a little over two years ago. She had “tennis ball-sized tumors” in her liver and secondary cancers throughout her body, as reported by the BBC.
Doctors at the U.S. National Cancer Institute concluded that Perkins wouldn’t survive with conventional therapy and as a result picked her for a radical new therapy which harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumors.
The treatment involves a highly personalized approach and a patient’s tumor is genetically analyzed to “identify the rare changes that might make the cancer visible to the immune system.”
Then researchers screen the patient’s white blood cells and extract those cells which are capable of attacking the cancer. These same white blood cells are then grown in labs in massive quantities.
“To create the treatment, doctors first cut small pieces of tissue from Perkins’s tumours and studied the DNA to find mutations specific to her cancer. They focused on mutations that disrupted four genes which produced an array of abnormal proteins in the tumors.”
In Perkins’ case, 90 billion cells were injected back into her.
Dr. Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute, was stunned by the response shown by Perkins’ body, who had resigned herself to what she thought would be her inevitable end.
“The very mutations that cause cancer turn out to be its Achilles heel,” Rosenberg said.
“At lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy – a unique drug for every cancer patient – it is very different to any other kind of treatment.”
Perkins said that she could feel the tumors shrinking within the first week of the white blood cells having been pumped into her body. In less than three weeks, the cancer was completely eradicated from her body.
“About a week after [the therapy] I started to feel something, I had a tumour in my chest that I could feel shrinking.
“It took another week or two for it to completely go away.”
Doctors all over the world are amazed by this development. Laszlo Radvanyi, scientific director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, told TheGuardian it was an “unprecedented” result, and could dawn in a completely new age of cancer treatment.
“We are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realising the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy,” he said.