Cancer patient "grateful" for immunotherapy; new study shows its promise

1 year 9 months 1 week ago Monday, May 07 2018 May 7, 2018 Monday, May 07, 2018 3:17:00 PM CDT May 07, 2018 in News
By: Monica Madden, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - Cancer patient Ruth Wright picked a newer type of treatment, and it has made all the difference. 

Wright was originally diagnosed with Stage I cancer. She said she made the decision not to seek out treatment after seeing the effects of chemotherapy on her parents, both of whom died of cancer. 

That all changed when she later got in a minor car accident and her x-ray showed the cancer had spread to her lungs, brain, esophagus and lymph nodes. She was then introduced to Dr. Sindhu Singh, an oncologist at MU Hospital, who finally offered a treatment that Wright was on board with: immunotherapy. 

"I was never in any pain," Wright said. "I think people wondered if I really even had cancer." 

A major study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in April showed immunotherapy can nearly double the survival time of some patients when combined with chemotherapy.

The study was on lung cancer patients. Wright has breast cancer. The study focused on combination therapy, while Wright chose immunotherapy alone.

But cancer experts say Wright's treatment is proving effective against a wide range of cancers.

Dr. Joseph Muscato, the medical director at the Steward Cancer Center at Boone Hospital said a crucial role of the immune system is recognizing and fighting off foreign cells. However, the body doesn't recognize cancer cells as foreign. The immunotherapy drugs allow the immune system to attack the cancer cells while leaving the normal ones alone. 

"What we've finally figured out that there are some ways to trick the immune system into recognizing cancer cells for what they are," Muscato said. 

The lung cancer study involved 616 patients at 118 medical facilities internationally. One group received chemotherapy and immunotherapy and a smaller group was treated only with chemotherapy. The patients who received the combined therapy had a 48 percent decrease in chances of progression or death. 

Muscato said previous trials had smaller sample sizes, so the concern was whether or not the study could be replicated. 

"We in this field have to look very carefully at the data and ask is this really something that changes things," he said. "But this one is a game changer at this point." 

The impact of immunotherapy is significant.

“It adds almost 12 months to a patient’s life.” said Dr. Sindhu Singh, an oncologist with MU Hospital.

It's also considerably simpler than chemotherapy. 

"The beauty of immune therapy is that the same drug can be used to fight different cancers, but we have to use different chemotherapy regimens for different cancers," Singh said. "For example I have a patient with kidney cancer and colon cancer at the same time, which require different chemotherapies, but I am treating him with immune therapy for both cancers."

Wright said doctors were adamant that she had chemotherapy or radiation. She didn't want to.

"I had led a good life, I was happy and felt good and I wanted to continue just enjoying whatever life I had," she said.

It has been a year since Wright started immunotherapy. She has been in remission for more than three months.

"I have a life and I’m supposed to take care of my body and Dr. Singh understood that," Wright said. "I’m grateful I got it and grateful she didn't just listen to me, but she heard me.”

Both Singh and Muscato said there is still a long way to go in finding a cure, but any progress is good. 

“And once we made this landmark step, we can add more steps to it in the future," Singh said. "Then we open up, you know, essentially limitless possibilities and that’s the power of this study.”

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - A public defender representing a Columbia man who plotted a terrorist attack has asked for a 15-year sentence.... More >>
1 hour ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:43:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – People from all around Missouri and lawmakers packed into a hearing room in the Missouri Capitol Wednesday... More >>
1 hour ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:22:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - State lawmakers on the House Elections and Elected Officials committee heard testimony on a bill that could... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 12:59:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - A Fulton man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for a 2018 Columbia homicide. 30-year-old... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 12:23:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
FULTON - The State Technical College of Missouri is partnering with the Callaway Chamber of Commerce to provide the MoAMP... More >>
5 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 10:55:00 AM CST February 19, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his candidacy to keep the seat Wednesday. Schmitt was appointed... More >>
6 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 10:13:00 AM CST February 19, 2020 in News
Loxahatchee, FL – According to the national institute of mental health, nearly one in five people in the United States... More >>
6 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:20:00 AM CST February 19, 2020 in A Brighter Tomorrow
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The man suspected of shooting an off-duty police officer at a Walmart store in the... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 8:53:16 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - One Missouri advocacy group will show up in numbers to support its cause on Wednesday. Decoding... More >>
20 hours ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 7:50:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA-- Lawyers for a Columbia businessman, Dimetrius Woods, are employing last ditch efforts to keep him out of prison. ... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 7:00:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
MOBERLY - People in Moberly are excited about the announcement Plumrose USA made Tuesday. The company is set to bring... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 6:56:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
BOONE COUNTY - A deer was saved today at Lake Chapperal, north of Hallsville, by The Boone County Fire Protection... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 5:21:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones issued a statement on Tuesday about police transparency, following the release of a... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 5:06:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - One lane of U.S. Route 54 in Jefferson City will be closed on Feb. 20. Missouri... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 2:59:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Hundreds of Moms Demand Action members flooded the Missouri Capitol today wearing red in support of legislation... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 2:48:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
MARIES COUNTY - Gary Martin Traver's Jr., the man recently arrested for an arson that injured six Vienna fireman in... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 2:39:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A bomb threat to the Cole County courthouse Tuesday morning caused both the courthouse and annex to... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 1:06:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY — If you rent in the City of Columbia, you might have better living conditions than some people... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, February 18 2020 Feb 18, 2020 Tuesday, February 18, 2020 12:48:00 PM CST February 18, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 39°
5pm 40°
6pm 37°
7pm 35°
8pm 34°