According to a story from The Guardian, doctors are celebrating the effectiveness of an all new, experimental immunotherapy that was able to totally eliminate a case of metastatic breast cancer from the body of Judy Perkins, who was 49-years-old when she agreed to test out the new treatment after multiple bouts of chemotherapy had no effect on her cancer. The cancer had spread to her liver, and without the treatment, she would have certainly died. In fact, she was prepared to do so; doctors told her she only had years to live, so she had quit her job in order to fulfill a bucket list she had created for herself.
The new immunotherapy technique involved taking tumor material and conducting a genomic analysis that identified genetic mutations that were specific to her tumor. These mutations were responsible for the presence of multiple abnormal proteins within the tumors. The doctors also extracted a specific type of immune cell, called tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), from the tumor tissue. These cells enter the tumor in an attempt to attack and destroy it, but the body does not produce a sufficient number of these cells to take down an entire tumor.
Researchers then replicated these cells in the lab and identified which ones would be the most effective by determining if they could lock on to the abnormal proteins that the tumor causes. Then, the doctors introduced 80 billion of these cells back into Judy’s body along with the drug pembrolizumab, which can help enhance the immune response against cancer.
After 42 weeks, Judy was cancer free.
She now lives a normal and healthy life, and even completed a 40 mile hiking trip once she was back to 100 percent. In the past similar approaches have been unsuccessful, as sometimes there are simply not enough TILs to extract and replicate. In addition, much more research must be done in order to verify these exciting results; the procedure has yet to clear any clinical trials.