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Discovery & Development Clinical Trials

The Cancer Trial Seeing Incredible Results

Consumer media is at it again with the dramatic headlines – bigging up an investigational new cancer treatment and getting patient hopes up. You may have come across some of the headlines: “Doctors left shocked after clinical trial for cancer drug cures the disease in every participant,” “Cancer cure finally here? New drug cures all patients ‘first time in history.’” 

But, In this case, the results are genuinely pretty exciting – although only applicable to a niche group of patients with stage 2 or 3 rectal tumors that have a specific genetic makeup known as mismatch repair-deficient (MMRd). Only around 5–10 percent of rectal cancer patients fall into this category. 

Investigators at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are conducting an ongoing phase II trial for an immunotherapy involving GSK’s checkpoint inhibitor dostarlimab (Jemperli – approved by the EMA and FDA in 2021 for endometrial cancer). The trial began around two years ago and the results have been published in the NEJM. Tumors in all 12 patients in the trial disappeared – a complete clinical response without the need for surgery or chemotherapy. Follow up ranged from 6 to 25 months – and enrolment in the trial continues. The primary endpoint for the trial is sustained clinical complete response after 12 months.

Dostarlimab was administered every 3 weeks for 6 months, and the plan was to then proceed with standard chemoradiotherapy and surgery – but so far, none of the patients have needed the latter interventions. There has also been no cases of progression or recurrence, and no adverse events of grade 3 or higher. 

Since the study was written, two more patients have also become tumor-free. The investigators are (understandably!) very excited and are encouraging rectal cancer sufferers to find out if their tumor is MMRd. You can read more in this press release, which also includes patient stories.

The team is also investigating if the same method could help other cancers and have already started to enrol patients with stomach, prostrate, and pancreatic cancers.

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About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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