Excellent results in the first experimental phase: in six months the tumor it is "completely eliminated" in the 12 patients previously suffering from locally advanced rectal cancer.
The treatment consisted of the administration for 6 months of a new drug based on monoclonal antibodies, called Dostarlimab. The participants in the trial are all quite young, with an average age of 54, and were suffering from rectal cancer. In all 12 patients, at the end of 6 months, the tumor was "completely eliminated". The result, in itself very encouraging, was presented at the ASCO, that is the American Congress of Oncology (American Society of Clinical Oncology) held between 3 and 7 June this year in Chicago. Additionally, the study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (and we link it here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2201445 ).
What is the cure for rectal cancer to date?
The therapy of choice for colorectal cancer is the same as that used for many other cancers. Which? A mix of chemo and radiation therapy usually followed by surgery. In the specific case of this tumor, surgery usually involves resection of the rectum, that is, the partial or total removal of the colorectal. The operation, and therefore the lack of the large intestine (that is, the colorectal), implies for the patient the need to live with an ostomy, or a special bag for the collection of feces.
What would be the benefits of the drug?
Therapy with this type of monoclonal antibodies would allow patients not to undergo cycles of radio and chemo-therapy, which are extremely stressful and poorly tolerated by our body, although necessary in certain cases. In addition to this, which in itself represents an enormous goal, the rectal removal surgery could also be avoided, which is certainly very invasive and has lifelong consequences for the patient.
So did we defeat him? Caution…
It is still early to sing victory; what we have reported are the results of a phase 2 clinical trial, therefore carried out only on a few patients in order to test the efficacy and safety of the drug. In order to have clearer answers, it will be necessary to wait for the necessary confirmations on a larger number of patients, with a long-term follow-up after the conclusion of the therapy.
What is certain is that this study opens up very important new perspectives regarding the treatment of rectal cancer and some cancers, as regards the efficacy of immunological therapy. So we just have to wait and stay confident!