Experimental immunotherapy drug has 100% cure rate for rectal cancer

Oncologists Drs. Luis Diaz and Andrea Cercek (in white lab coats), co-investigators of a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center clinical study, are pictured here with four of the 14 patients who took part in the study. All 14 patients had a specific form of advanced rectal cancer — but all had their cancer cured after receiving an immunotherapy drug.

There are encouraging clinical drug trials — and then there’s the unprecedented news earlier this month about a new experimental immunotherapy drug that had a 100% cure rate in patients who were being treated for rectal cancer.

Granted, the study was small one — just 14 people — but as Dr. Natalie Azar said on “Today,” “That’s 100% of patients. We never, ever say that about cancer treatments.” 

The study was conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York City and the results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Participants all had stage 2 or 3 rectal adenocarcinoma. This means that their cancer had spread to the lymph nodes but that their tumors had not metastasized. 

In addition, all of the patients had a rare specific mutation of the cancer called mismatch repair deficiency (MMrd) that is considered especially sensitive to chemotherapy.

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