New findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Sunday that found all rectal cancer patients given a certain pill were cancer-free.
The New York Times reported the findings, noting that the sample size was incredibly small, with just 18 people but the results were unbelievable.
“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” said Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The project was paid for by GlaxoSmithKline, which crafted the new drug and it's unclear when the next trial will be with a larger group. For the 18, however, each has gone into remission. It's the first time Dr. Diaz has ever seen it in his entire professional career.
Dr. Alan P. Venook, studying colorectal cancer at the University of California, San Francisco, joined the study. He confirmed the results, saying he was certain it was the first time ever. Total remission in every patient is "unheard-of."
No one thought that the pill would do something like it, particularly the patients who assumed that they'd face radiation, chemo and surgery along with colostomy bags.
“There were a lot of happy tears,” said co-author and oncologist Dr. Andrea Cercek.
"On average, one in five patients have some sort of adverse reaction to drugs like the one the patients took, dostarlimab, known as checkpoint inhibitors. The medication was given every three weeks for six months and cost about $11,000 per dose. It unmasks cancer cells, allowing the immune system to identify and destroy them," the report explained.
There were few reactions that prevented the patient from taking the drug.
Dr. Venook said that the findings mean “either they did not treat enough patients or, somehow, these cancers are just plain different.”
One woman has been cancer-free for two years.