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A small cancer study saw recovery in 100% of patients

A small cancer study out of New York found something incredible — the cancer in all of the participants had disappeared

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This fluorescence-colored microscope image shows a culture of human breast cancer cells.

This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells.

Ewa Krawczyk, National Cancer Institute via Associated Press

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York conducted a small trial of just 14 people with rectal cancer. After completing the trial with an experimental treatment, participants found that their tumors had disappeared.

About the study: For six months, participants of the study were given an immunotherapy drug called dostarlimab.

  • After the treatment was completed, the cancer was undetectable in all of the patients, unable to be seen by physical exam, endoscopy, MRI or PET scans, according to CBS News.

About the drug: Dostarlimab “unmasks” cancer cells, according to The New York Times, which allows the immune system to better detect them and destroy the tumor.

  • Immunotherapy has been used to treat cancer before, but this is the first time this specific drug has been used alone, according to the “Today” show.
  • “It’s basically harnessing the power of your own immune system to kill cancer cells,” said Dr. Natalie Azar on the “Today” show.

Groundbreaking research: “I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” said Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr., one of the researchers involved in the study, according to The New York Times. Experts say that results such as these, where all participants see their cancer disappear, is “unheard of.”

However, Dr. Kimmie Ng, a colorectal cancer expert from Harvard Medical School, said the results were “remarkable,” but they would need to be recreated.

  • The participants in this study all had a rare genetic signature in their tumors. This study will need to be replicated on a larger participant scale in order for the results to be definite, CBS says.

Good news for cancer patients: More often than not, radiation cancer treatments can have serious side effects on important bodily functions, CBS reports. Participants of this study are celebrating the fact that they will not have to be subject to the potential setbacks of radiation treatment.

  • “It’s incredibly rewarding to get these happy tears and happy emails from the patients in this study who finish treatment and realize ... ‘I get to keep all my normal body functions that I feared I might lose to radiation or surgery,’” said Andrea Cercek, a medical oncologist involved in the study, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.