A WOMAN appears to have been cured of advanced drug-resistant breast cancer after doctors harnessed her own immune system to fight the disease.
Doctors in the US combined two different forms of immunotherapy after conventional hormone treatments and chemotherapy failed.
The experiment led to ‘complete durable regression’ of the cancer that had spread to Judy Perkins’ liver, the team said, writing in the journal Nature Medicine.
The 52-year-old mother-of-two from Florida has been disease-free for almost two years. Mrs Perkins said she left her job and ‘was planning on dying. I had a bucket list of things to do before the end, like going to the Grand Canyon’. Now she is spending her time backpacking and kayaking.
British experts said the study was ‘exciting’ even though it involved just one patient. Prof Alan Melcher, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: ‘This treatment represents a remarkable success in terms of translating our basic biological understanding of how the immune system responds to cancer into a real treatment of real benefit.’ Peter Johnson, professor of medical oncology at Southampton General Hospital, said that ‘even cancers that have spread to different parts of the body may be treatable’. He said the process ‘shows how the immune cells already inside cancers may be switched on and made to work better’.
Ms Perkins had ten cancer-free years after having her left breast removed. But the disease returned, failed to respond to treatment and spread to her right breast. The National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, removed immune cells, multiplied them under lab conditions and injected them back into her bloodstream. She also had new drugs to overcome a cancer’s ability to shield itself from the immune system.