Medicine. The drug was able to eliminate colon cancer in 18 patients

For many, this is the news of the month and almost the news of the year. Dostarlimab found that in the 18 patients with rectal (colorectal) cancer who were studied, the disease disappeared and was undetectable by physical examination, endoscopy, PET scan and MRI.

Patients had locally advanced rectal cancer and were treated for six months with the drug, which is given every three weeks and costs about $ 11,000 per dose. According to the New York Times, patients who participated in the study did so as an alternative to other more invasive treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, thinking they would have to go through them later. But it was not necessary.

“There were many tears of happiness,” Andrea Church, an oncologist at MSK and co-author of the study, published last Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine and led by a team from the Sloan Catering Memorial Cancer Center, told The New. York Times. New York). “I think this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” said Dr. Louis A. Diaz Jr., another of the study’s authors. Complete remission in all patients is “unheard of,” he said.


Dostarlimab works by exposing cancer cells, allowing the immune system to identify and destroy them.

Another surprise after the study was that none of the patients had significant clinical complications. On average, one in five patients experience an adverse reaction while taking immune checkpoint inhibitors such as dostarlimab. Although most reactions are manageable, three to five percent of patients taking checkpoint inhibitors develop more serious complications, in some cases leading to muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing and chewing.

There are no more attempts and follow-up; however, this does not mean that patients are fully recovered or that the cancer cannot return. Hannah K. Sanoff, an oncologist at the University of North Carolina who did not participate in the study, celebrated the result but called for restraint: the drug could not be seen simply as a substitute for long-term cancer control and more research needed to be done. to test its safe efficacy.

“Very little is known about the length of time it takes to understand whether a full clinical response to dostarlimab is equivalent to a cure. It is also unknown whether the results of this small study will be summarized for a wider population of patients with rectal cancer, “Sanoff said.

Scientists will have to keep trying to confirm the effectiveness of dostarlimab. In any case, treatment with this drug can bring a promising future for those suffering from rectal cancer, but also for those with cancer of the stomach, prostate or pancreas.

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