Good news for cancer patients throughout the world! According to media reports, there has been a massive breakthrough in treating cancer after 18 patients took a newly invented drug called Dostarlimab, which vanishes cancer completely in human bodies. Most importantly, none of the 18 patients need further treatment.
The 18 patients each had rectal cancer up until they all consumed Dostarlimab for six months. Now, the cancer is undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, positron emission tomography, PET scans or MRI scans. This marks “the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” Dr Luis A. Diaz J. of New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center told The New York Times. While Dr Alan P. Venook, a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, called the results “unheard of”
The patients went into the clinical trial possibly facing “chemotherapy, radiation and, most likely, life-altering surgery that could result in bowel, urinary and sexual dysfunction. Some would need colostomy bags.” However, to their surprise, since their tumors disappeared, no further treatment was necessary. Fortunately, no patient had “clinically significant complications”.
The patients went into the clinical trial possibly facing “chemotherapy, radiation and, most likely, life-altering surgery that could result in bowel, urinary and sexual dysfunction. Some would need colostomy bags”.
However, to their surprise, since their tumors disappeared, no further treatment was necessary. Fortunately, no patient had “clinically significant complications”.
It may be mentioned here that, standard treatment of cancer involves a grueling combination of surgery, multiple chemotherapy drugs, and radiation to destroy cancer cells, often with nasty, permanent side effects such as nerve problems, infertility, and bowel and sexual dysfunction.
The medication, which unmasks cancer cells, costs US$11,000 per dose; it was given to patients every three weeks for six months. Significant side effects were not present, though three to five percent of patients experienced difficulty swallowing and chewing and muscle weakness.
The absence of major symptoms could mean “they did not treat enough patients or, somehow, these cancers are just plain different”, said Dr. Venook.
Dr. Andrea Cercek, an oncologist at MSKCC and a study co-author, said there were “a lot of happy tears” from the trial participants when they found out no further treatment was necessary.
According to another report, for the trial, which was backed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, patients took dostarlimab every three weeks for six months. The patients were all in similar stages of their cancer — it was locally advanced in the rectum but had not spread to other organs. The researchers believed that dostarlimab, a checkpoint inhibitor that exposes cancer cells to allow the immune system to fight them, would work well in the patients.
Meanwhile, it is expected that the cost of the medicine would be significantly reduced once it goes in commercial production, which may go below US$50 per dose or even lesser.
Reuters in a report said, patients with blood cancers have a significantly weaker antibody response to COVID-19 vaccines than patients with solid tumors, but they may still be well protected against severe illness from the virus, new data suggests.
Researchers at Monash University in Australia studied immune responses after three doses of the COVID vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca in nearly 400 adults with active or recently treated cancers.
Only 3.2 percent of the 256 patients with solid tumors lacked antibodies capable of neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 and preventing infection, compared to 30 percent of the 137 with hematological malignancies, researchers reported on Saturday at ASCO 2022. But responses of immune cells called T cells, some of which can kill cells infected with the virus, were similar regardless of cancer type. T cell responses, therefore, may indicate immune protection “for those without antibody response,” the researchers said.
The same team reported in a separate presentation on Saturday that data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for cancer patients “are reassuring.” Survey responses from nearly 500 adults and children showed most experienced some after-effects, with pain at the injection site and fatigue most common. But severe reaction rates were low (ranging from 0%-10%) and interruptions to cancer treatment were uncommon (0%-11%). “No significant change in quality of life was reported for dose 1 or 2 in children or adults,” the researchers said.
A large proportion of vaccinated cancer patients who develop breakthrough COVID-19 require hospitalization, according to data collected by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and reported at ASCO 2022.
Researchers studied 231 patients who had breakthrough infections while receiving treatment for cancer or within a year of treatment. The patients had received at least one dose of a vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. Most of the breakthrough cases occurred more than six months later. Among patients with non-metastatic solid tumors and breakthrough infections, nearly 20% were hospitalized. Hospitalization rates for blood cancer patients with breakthrough COVID-19 ranged from 32 percent to 56 percent.
“While the fraction of patients in the ASCO registry with breakthrough cases who were hospitalized remained fairly constant throughout 2021 (about 40 percent), those with breakthrough cases occurring in the last month of 2021 and early 2022 had a lower hospitalization rate (at about 20%), which is consistent with less severe cases of COVID-19 in patients infected with the Omicron variant,” the researchers said in a summary of their presentation. “A majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections occurring six months or more after vaccination suggests waning vaccine efficacy over time that could be impacted by additional doses,” they said.
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