Two and a half years ago, doctors told a breast cancer patient in Florida that she had just three months to live. Now, 52 year-old Judy Perkins of Port St. Lucie is cancer free thanks to an experimental treatment that harnessed billions of her own immune cells.
Judy had a mastectomy and all her lymph nodes removed. Though she also went through chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, doctors told her that the treatments had failed and that the cancer had spread to her chest and liver. Judy was positive that she was going to die, but then she met Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health.
After looking at Judy’s immune cells, Rosenberg found the ones capable of detecting genetic mutations and fighting cancer. He had a team of scientists extract these cells from her body and grow them in a lab before injecting her with 90 billion of them.
“I think it had been maybe 10 days since I’d gotten the cells, and I could already feel that tumor starting to get soft,” Perkins said. “By then I was like, ‘Dang, this is really working.’”
Rosenberg is convinced that Perkins’ cells are still working to keep her cancer free.
“Circulating in her body are large numbers of cells we administered to her two and half years ago,” he said. “This is just one treatment that’s necessary because the cells are alive. They’re part of Judy. They are Judy Perkins.”
Though Rosenberg acknowledges that the treatment is not yet ready for widespread use, he believes it could pave the way for treatment of several different cancers.
“A lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy — a unique drug for every cancer patient — it is very different to any other kind of treatment,” Rosenberg said.
We can only hope that this is the beginning of finding a cure for cancer!
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