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Immunotherapy Proves “Highly Effective” for Certain Colon Cancers

Research conducted by the Netherlands Cancer Institute has revealed that a brief course of immunotherapy is highly effective for treating a specific group of colon cancer patients. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, detail the impact of administering two cycles of immunotherapy before surgery. Remarkably, the treatment was effective in nearly all participants, with two-thirds of the patients showing no live tumor cells at the time of their surgery.

The study focused on patients with colon cancer characterized by a particular genetic makeup known as mismatch-repair deficient (dMMR) or microsatellite instable (MSI). These types of colorectal cancers contain a high number of DNA errors, making the tumor cells more recognizable to the immune system. “This specific type of colorectal cancer contains a high number of DNA errors, which means that the tumor cells are more easily detected by the immune system. The immune system only requires a small incentive to successfully target the tumor cells,” explained oncologist Myriam Chalabi.

Notably, none of the patients in the study developed metastases in the average of two years since undergoing the treatment. “We wanted to investigate what immunotherapy could do for people with non-metastatic colon cancer,” Chalabi said. “We witnessed something that rarely ever happens: every single patient in the study responded well to the new treatment.”

Although this promising treatment is not yet available to patients, the trial aims to pave the way for its standard use. “Towards the end of the year, we will have followed these patients for three years. If the majority of these patients are still cancer-free, we should work towards making this therapy a standard treatment option,” Chalabi stated.

The results of this research highlight the potential of immunotherapy as a transformative approach to treating certain types of colon cancer, offering hope for improved outcomes and a possible new standard of care in the near future.

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