It’s great news for the world of cancer curing. Every rectal cancer patient who participated in a small experimental drug trial had their cancer disappear.

Fourteen people had a locally advanced stage of rectal cancer with a rare abnormality called mismatch repair deficiency. They all received an immunotherapy treatment for six months, and the cancer was gone when it was done. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study.

The research was funded by a pharmaceutical company. The cancer was not detected in any of the participants by way of a physical exam, endoscopy, PET scans, or MRI scans after the trial ended.




Dostarlimab is a pricey drug. Each patient was given it every three weeks for six months. It works by exposing the cancer cells so that the immune system can identify them and destroy them.

“This new treatment is a type of immunotherapy, a treatment that blocks the ‘don’t eat me’ signal on cancer cells enabling the immune system to eliminate them,” CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus explains. “The treatment targets a subtype of rectal cancer that has the DNA repair system not working. When this system isn’t working there are more errors in proteins and the immune system recognizes these and kills the cancer cells.”

All of the participants were cancer-free after six months. They did not have to receive any of the standard cancer treatments. Wild!

“Amazing to have every patient in a clinical trial respond to a drug, almost unheard of,” Agus said, adding that it “speaks to the role of personalized medicine — that is identifying a subtype of cancer for a particular treatment, rather than treating all cancers the same.”

The patients had no bad side effects from the drug.

“Surgery and radiation have permanent effects on fertility, sexual health, bowel, and bladder function,” Dr. Andrea Cercek, a medical oncologist and principal investigator in the study, said in an MSK news release. “The implications for quality of life are substantial, especially in those where standard treatment would impact childbearing potential. As the incidence of rectal cancer is rising in young adults, this approach can have a major impact.”

There is only hope after such a small study, but more research will be needed. The fact that all of the people in the study were free of the disease is very promising.

Check out the video to learn more about the study.

What do you think about the results of the study?