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The Science Behind The Cancer Cure

Context:

In a medical trial, 12 patients in the United States were completely cured of rectal cancer without requiring any surgery or chemotherapy.

  • The study was done by doctors from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the findings?
  2. What is this deficiency, and how was it cured?
  3. When can such a treatment be accessible in India?

What are the findings?

  • The trial used a monoclonal antibody called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months for the treatment of a particular kind of stage two or three rectal cancer.
  • The trial showed that immunotherapy alone – without any chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery that have been staples of cancer treatment – could completely cure the patients with a particular kind of rectal cancer called ‘mismatch repair deficient’ cancer”.
  • All 12 patients had completed the treatment and were followed for six to 25 months after.
  • No cases of progression or recurrence had been reported during the follow-up.
  • The response too was rapid, with symptoms resolving in 81% of the patients within nine weeks of starting the therapy.

What is this deficiency, and how was it cured?

  • ‘Mismatch repair deficient’ cancer is most common among colorectal, gastrointestinal, and endometrial cancers.
  • Patients suffering from this condition lack the genes to correct typos in the DNA that occur naturally while cells make copies.
  • The immunotherapy belongs to a category called PD1 blockades that are now recommended for the treatment of such cancers rather than chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • PD1 is a type of protein that regulates certain functions of the immune system, including by suppressing T cell activity, and PD1 blockade therapy looks to release the T cells from this suppression.

When can such a treatment be accessible in India?

  • The problem with immunotherapies is that they are expensive and unaffordable for most people in India
    • An immunotherapy treatment can cost around Rs 4 lakh per month, with patients needing the treatment for six months to a year.
  • Precision medicine, such as using particular immunotherapy drugs for particular types of cancers, is still at a nascent stage in India.
  • It would take at least ten years for it to become commonplace.

-Source: Indian Express


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September 2022
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