Doctors and cancer patients around the world are taking note of an incredible piece of news. A new therapy has reportedly cured a woman diagnosed with advanced breast cancer which had spread throughout her body.
This marks the first time that a woman with advanced, late-stage breast cancer has successfully been treated with immunotherapy. The team of doctors used patient Judy Perkins's own immune cells to combat the disease.
Perkins was just 49 years old when the engineer discovered she'd been picked for a new therapy. She'd already undergone chemo treatments which continued to fail her. At best, Perkins had three years left to live.
Doctors from the US National Cancer Institute located in Maryland suggested the immunotherapy. They called her response to the treatment "remarkable."
“My condition deteriorated a lot towards the end, and I had a tumour pressing on a nerve, which meant I spent my time trying not to move at all to avoid pain shooting down my arm. I had given up fighting,” Perkins said in an interview with The Guardian. “After the treatment dissolved most of my tumours, I was able to go for a 40-mile hike.”
Laszlo Radvanyi serves as a scientific director at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Like many keeping up with this news, Radvanyi was not involved in treating Perkins. However, he's certainly taking notice -- calling the treatment "an unprecedented response in such advanced breast cancer."
“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.”
“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,” Radvanyi said.
Doctors now hope for a major revolution in treatment opportunities available for patients. Some research teams are already developing massive clinical trials to determine just how effective immunotherapy could be for certain patients.
Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, told interviewers: “This is a remarkable and extremely promising result, but we need to see this effect repeated in other patients before giving hope of a new immunotherapy for incurable metastatic breast cancer.
“Metastatic breast cancer remains incurable, and if we are to finally stop women dying we urgently need to find new ways to target and stop the spread of the disease. We are thrilled by this early finding, but we must remember that this type of immunotherapy remains an experimental approach that has a long way to go before it might be routinely available to patients.”
The process of immunotherapy takes biopsies of the primary tumor and its metastases to determine any mutations specific to a patient's cancer. Those immune cells that made it through tumor tissue then get cultivated into billions of immune cells in a lab. The tumor tissue itself goes through a bit of gene sequencing so researchers know the main mutations of the tissue. The immune cells being grown then get analyzed to see which ones can target cancer specifically. Those immune cells are the ones that get put back into a patient in order to kill the cancer cells.
Perkins had over 80 billion immune cells put into her body. After 42 weeks of treatment, Perkins was declared free of cancer.
She's been free of cancer ever since.
“It feels miraculous, and I am beyond amazed that I have now been free of cancer for two years,” Perkins said.
“I had resigned my job and was planning on dying. I had a bucket-list of things I needed to do before the end, like going to the Grand Canyon,” she added. “Now, I have gone back to normal everyday life.”