World first: New immunotherapy method cures advanced stage breast cancer

Immunotherapy is a method dealing with cancer which equips body’s own immune system to tackle it. This method of dealing with cancer is said to be the next big revolution in treating caners, says experts from the country who have already practiced it here

World first: New immunotherapy method cures advanced stage breast cancer
Judy Perkins Image courtesy: CBS News

In the latest study published in the journal Nature Medicine it has been established how US based researchers cured breast cancer of a woman whose cancer had even defied chemotherapy. This is the world’s first breast cancer treated with immunotherapy approach.

A 49-year-old woman from USA, who was suffering from end stage breast cancer, was treated at US National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

It involved pumping 90 billion cancer-killing immune cells into her body.

Judy Perkins had been given three months to live, but two years later there is no sign of cancer in her body.

The team at the US National Cancer Institute says the therapy is still experimental, but could transform the treatment of all cancer.

Judy, who lives in Florida, had spreading, advanced breast cancer that could not be treated with conventional therapy.

While immunotherapy method has already been positively tested on lung, cervix, skin and bladder; it is the first time in the world that this method is used for treating breast cancer.

The cancer had spread to other organs of the woman when she started with the treatment. A person’s immune system is designed to kill invaders like cancerous cells. But many a times it fails because it could not recognise cancer cells containing the patient’s own DNA.

Immunotherapy trains a patient’s own immune cells to recognise such cancerous cells and fight against them.

Immunotherapy and India

Experts say that while the conventional cancer therapy revolves around surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and their combinations; immunotherapy – a technique which had won the Noble Prize for medicine in 2011, is offering a ray of hope for advanced stage cancer patients.

After completion of successful trials in India, drug control authority has given permissions to selected doctors from few cities in India to make the therapy available to patients with cancer.

The drug controller has given an approval for four types of cancers. Accordingly, the therapy can be used in the case of lung, colorectal, ovary and prostate cancers in India.

The trials were concluded in 2014 in India. Dr P T Bapsy, senior oncologist from Apollo Hospital, Bangalore, who was part of the trials, said, “It is just coming up in India and very few doctors have got approval from drug controller. We had done the trials on terminal patients and it was found to be successful. Oncologists across the country will soon adapt to this technique.”