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For decades, immunotherapy drugs have been used to treat life-threatening diseases like lung cancer or leukemia. Recently, doctors at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center conducted research on an immunotherapy drug to treat colorectal cancer — with incredible results.
In a very small trial of just 18 people, 100% of the patients with colorectal cancer entered remission after six months of treatment. In every case, cancer has not returned in any of the patients who have been in remission for up to two years.
"This is a very exciting advancement for colorectal cancer care," says Mohamedtaki Tejani, MD, Medical Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at AdventHealth Cancer Institute. "Colorectal cancer is still primarily treated with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, all of which have adverse side effects on patients. The patients in this study were destined for the same treatment until this research unveiled extraordinary results."
How Does This New Drug Work?
Immunotherapy harnesses the body's immune system as an ally against cancer. "Immunotherapy drugs, like the dostarlimab drug by GlaxoSmithKline being used in this research, temporarily disable your immune system's checkpoint inhibitor, allowing it to identify the tumor or cancer cells in your body and start fighting against it," explains Dr. Tejani.
Who Qualifies for This New Treatment?
While this new drug brings excitement and hope to patients and families of those with colorectal cancer, it's important to note that, as of right now, not every patient qualifies for this treatment option.
"All the patients in their trial had stage 2 or 3 rectal tumors that were MSI high or MMRd, which makes their cancer particularly sensitive to immunotherapy," says Dr. Tejani, "Unfortunately, only a small subset, about 3 to 5% of patients with colorectal cancer, can benefit from this drug."
However, the advances in colorectal cancer treatment that have come from this clinical study have empowered other doctors and researchers to continue searching for a similar cure for the other 95% of colorectal cancer patients.
"In fact, at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, we are running a similar clinical study with a variety of colorectal cancer patients where we leverage immunotherapy with other treatment options such as radiation and surgery," encourages Dr. Tejani, "we hope that through this research, we will be able to expand this innovation to every colorectal cancer patient."
Expert Colorectal Cancer Care, Close to Home
At the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, one of the nation's top-ranked cancer hospitals, we believe that when faced with a great challenge, you can choose hope and courage. We're committed to walking alongside you every step of the way in your cancer journey. With over 200 world-class oncology specialists, groundbreaking research and whole-person care, expert colorectal cancer has never been closer to home. Learn more about how we’ll serve you at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute.
About Dr. Mohamedtaki Tejani
Mohamedtaki Tejani, MD, is an award-winning physician who has authored numerous oncology-related publications. His research experience and areas of interest include gastrointestinal cancers, biomarkers and therapeutics, patient-provider communication and the culture of medicine.
Dr. Tejani firmly believes that patient care is a privilege. Listening and responding to a patient's unique story is critical in helping that family on their cancer journey. Originally from Tanzania (East Africa), he is fluent in Swahili, Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati.