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

1 year 4 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 - Multiple people were trapped in elevators across MU's campus as a result of a widespread power outage Tuesday... More >>
19 minutes ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 5:26:00 PM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
CAMDENTON - Police are investigating after a Walmart employee found a man dead in a car in the parking lot... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 4:08:00 PM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Residents are asking for road improvements after a driver hit and killed a 17-year-old girl on Clark Lane... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 3:46:00 PM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The amount of water flowing down the lower Missouri River this year is approaching the... More >>
2 hours ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 3:39:47 PM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA -MU's football attendance is showing signs of revival, following years of steady decline. The Tigers' average home attendance... More >>
3 hours ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 2:36:00 PM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Parents of Columbia Public School students are demanding a change to the way they treat students with special... More >>
3 hours ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 2:29:00 PM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
(CNN) -- Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts, winner of three Emmys and a legend and trailblazer in broadcasting, has died at... More >>
7 hours ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 10:06:00 AM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri State Highway Patrol is helping two county agencies with a death investigation Tuesday. Troop F,... More >>
9 hours ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 8:28:00 AM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - School Resource Officers (SROs) will be staying in Columbia Public Schools for at least another month. The Columbia... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, September 17 2019 Sep 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 1:22:00 AM CDT September 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A seventeen-year-old is dead after being hit by a car while walking on Clark Lane late Monday night.... More >>
18 hours ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 11:20:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A woman face charges of domestic assault, property damage and driving while intoxicated after investigators said she... More >>
19 hours ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 10:11:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, Mo. — A head-on crash in Cole County over the weekend killed a St. Louis County couple travelling... More >>
20 hours ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 9:45:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Hickman High School got its first eSports club five years ago, but this year, it's finally getting its... More >>
1 day ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 3:00:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A suburban St. Louis-based company is offering free test-preparation classes for high school students in... More >>
1 day ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 2:25:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The city did not collect curbside recycling on Monday due to what they are calling "severe collection staff... More >>
1 day ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 1:28:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
MILLER COUNTY - A man pleaded guilty Monday to child molestation, prosecutors said. Dillon J. Robertson pleaded guilty to... More >>
1 day ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 1:12:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Police Chief Geoff Jones was sworn in Monday night during a Columbia City Council meeting. Jones became interim... More >>
1 day ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 12:47:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - Interim Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones will officially remove the interim label from his job title at Monday... More >>
1 day ago Monday, September 16 2019 Sep 16, 2019 Monday, September 16, 2019 12:47:00 PM CDT September 16, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 91°
6pm 90°
7pm 84°
8pm 81°
9pm 79°