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Clinical Trial of Dostarlimab for Rectal Cancer 

Dostarlimab, a drug, was given in a small clinical trial to 18 patients suffering from rectal cancer for around six months. In the end, it was found that cancer had just vanished away miraculously in every patient. For the trial, patients took dostarlimab every three weeks for six months. They were all in similar stages of their rectal cancer – it was locally advanced in the rectum but had not spread to other organs. The study was sponsored by the drug company GlaxoSmithKline.

According to The New York Times reports, all 18 rectal cancer patients were given dostarlimab. As a result of the treatment, cancer was completely obliterated in every patient – undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, positron emission tomography or PET scans or MRI scans.  

As per the report, the patients involved in the clinical trial faced gruelling previous treatments to obliterate their cancer, such as chemotherapy, radiation and invasive surgery that could result in bowel, urinary and even sexual dysfunction. 

The 18 rectal cancer patients went into the trial expecting to go through these as the next step. However, to their surprise, no further treatment was needed. 

The findings of this trial have shocked experts around the globe, and experts have pointed out that complete remission in every single patient is “unheard-of”.

Several experts have hailed the research as a world-first and highlighted that it is more impressive as not all patients suffered significant complications from the trial drug. Meanwhile, a co-author of the paper, oncologist Dr Andrea Cercek, described the moment rectal cancer patients found out they were cancer-free. “There were a lot of happy tears,” she told the New York Times. 

Here is all you need to know about dostarlimab and the trail:

What is dostarlimab?

Dostarlimab is an immunotherapy drug.

How does dostarlimab work?

Dostarlimab works by “unmasking” cancer cells, which in turn helps the immune system identify and destroy them.

Where was the trial performed?

The trial was performed at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Who took part in the trial? 

The clinical trial comprised a group of 18 patients. All of them were battling rectal cancer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, US.

When was dostarlimab approved? 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given the experimental drug Dostarlimab-gxly, a drug candidate created by GlaxoSmithKline, approval for use in patients with recurrent tumours, in August 2021.

What was the medical condition of all patients?

In all patients, rectal cancer was locally advanced. This means the tumours had spread within the rectum and in some cases, to the lymph nodes, but not to other organs.

Will the drug work against all cancers?

According to oncologist and cancer researcher Dr Aju Mathew, associated with the Ernakulam Cancer Centre in Kerala, drugs based on the fundamentals of PD-1 inhibitors, like dostarlimab, can be used only in patients with the genetic property of mismatch repair (MMR) deficiency.

Why are the findings from the dostarlimab trial remarkable?

The findings of the small clinical trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and shared in a representation during a recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, said that the drug worked like a wonder in mismatch repair-deficient stage II or III rectal cancer patients without metastasis.

What is the cost of this drug?

According to The New York Times, the medicine costs nearly $11,000 or ₹ 8.55 lakh per dose. Nine doses of the drug, required over six months, cost a whopping $99,000 (approximately Rs 77 lakh).


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