Cancer has been one disease that has ravaged an untold number of people worldwide. It is a leading cause of death all over the world and it accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020. Cancer is more dangerous because it is not easily cured and it affects the quality of life even after being cured.
A lot of research is ongoing in the cancer field with significant strides from time to time.
However, a potentially revolutionary discovery shook the medical and research world in the first week of June 2022.
Dostarlimab- the new star of the show.
A small clinical trial carried out by a team in New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre recently announced that the drug; Dostarlimab showed huge potential to make cancer disappear for good.
Dostarlimab is an experimental drug that was produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It is similar to another drug, Pembrolizumab, which was used in another study and produced remarkable results in shrinking cancer tumours. This study was carried out by Dr Diaz, a medical oncologist, who is one of the lead clinical researchers in the Dostarlimab study as well. So this study was inspired by that previous study and the researchers wanted to check if Dostarlimab would give similar results.
The Dostarlimab study researched the effects of immunotherapy on rectal cancer in patients with advanced-stage cancer with a specific mutation. This mutation is a ‘mismatch repair deficiency’. This mutation typically responds poorly to the standard treatment. So the clinical trial wanted to see if immunotherapy would help in these kinds of cancer tumours that were non-responsive to standard treatment.
How does Dostarlimab work to cure cancer?
Immunotherapy simply means using the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Now, some cells in the immune system produce some proteins called ‘checkpoint proteins’. These proteins help the cells bearing them to escape being destroyed by the immune system. Unfortunately, some cancer cells also produce these proteins and this helps them avoid being destroyed by the body’s immune system.
Dostarlimab works by stopping the action of these checkpoint proteins. This, in turn, will allow the immune cells to recognize and destroy tumour cells. It was so effective in destroying the cancer cells that there was no need for the usual chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. The study participants took the drug for 6 months at a 3 weekly interval. The cancer tumours disappeared in all patients. There has been no recurrence after 1 year so far. The first patient who was given the drug has not recorded any relapse in 2 years.
Are we there yet?
Dostarlimab shows a lot of promise. However, some other criteria have to be met before it can be used widely and successfully. The tumour needs to be at an advanced stage and has to have the mismatch repair mutation as well.
Researchers will carry out trials with a larger sample size before Dostarlimab can be even validated as a cure.
All in all, it’s a very promising sign of things to come.
Read here to find out the warning signs of cancer no one should ignore.
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Till my next post,
Dr Omotola Oke.