News 9 MD: Immunotherapy fighting advanced cancer - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

News 9 MD: Immunotherapy fighting advanced cancer

Patients with advanced cancers have new hope thanks to immunotherapy.  It's a therapy that trains the body's own immune system to search out and destroy the cancer cells. Patients with advanced cancers have new hope thanks to immunotherapy. It's a therapy that trains the body's own immune system to search out and destroy the cancer cells.

BALTIMORE. (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -  Patients with advanced cancers have new hope thanks to immunotherapy. It is a therapy that trains the body’s own immune system to search out and destroy the cancer cells. Researchers say they have found an accurate way to screen the patients who may respond well to this treatment.

For 25-year-old Stefanie Joho, her three sisters and parents are her world. Three years ago her doctor ordered a colonoscopy; she had a family history of cancer and had not been well for months.

"I woke up and I’ve never seen a doctor so white in the face. He was just shocked at what he discovered and I had a really large mass in my colon", says JoHo.

She had stage four colon cancer, two surgeries, and rounds of chemo had little effect. 

“I was ready to give up. The reason I didn’t was my family. They would not let me."

Oncologist Dung Le with Johns Hopkins Kimmel Canter Center in Baltimore, Maryland is studying immunotherapy. She and her colleagues have found that advanced cancer patients with a certain DNA defect called a mismatched repair gene may have the best response.

“It actually doesn’t matter what the disease type is. It depends on that mismatch repair deficiency”, explains Dr. Le.

Dr. Le says these patients respond best to drugs called PD One inhibitors. They allow the immune system to fight the cancer. 

“That’s the beauty of immunotherapy and that’s the hope. That these responses continue, even after you stop immunotherapy.",says Dr. Le.

After months of treatment, JoHo says this is the best she has felt in years. She is ready to start a new chapter.

“It’s incredible to just feel like a 25-year-old. Because I didn’t know what that felt like that for a while.” 

After months of immunotherapy, Joho's tumor shrank by 65 percent. She has now stabilized, meaning the tumor is not growing. In a small study, Dr. Le found 92 percent of the patients responded to the treatment. 

Dr. Le says that larger clinical trials are necessary to assess the full potential of the drugs for clinical use.  The immunotherapy treatment is for patients who have tried and failed with other cancer regimens.

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