This Revolutionary Treatment Kills Cancer

We got word that yes, they did see a large mass in my abdomen, learned that it was in
fact large B-cell lymphoma.
It didn’t really help encourage me to hear that it’s a very small percentage of people
that gets this kind of cancer that you’ve got, but it does make you ask questions like
why me?
My wife and I and our church had been praying for me through this situation.
We again prayed, well, life could either be over very, very soon for me, or perhaps God
would lead us to a place that could have some treatment that would be successful.
We have had three effective ways to treat cancer over the last hundred years, and that
is surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Despite the best application of these three common modalities, people in America that
die of cancer number about 580,000 every year.
We desperately therefore need additional ways to treat cancer and have been developing immunotherapy
as a fourth modality to join surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
This is Dr. Steve Rosenberg.
He’s a cancer surgeon, and he’s had about the most prestigious career a surgeon can have.
But if you ask Steve Rosenberg what his life’s work is, he wouldn’t say surgery.
For the past 40 years, he’s been working on a new way of treating cancer that can make
techniques like surgery obsolete.
Now, immunotherapy doesn’t use a scalpel, a radiation beam, or a drug, external forces
on the body.
Rather, it attempts to modify the immune system to fight the cancer.
The body’s own natural defenses that protect the body against foreign invaders.
Well, the body recognizes most cancers as foreign, but with not a strong enough reaction
to eliminate those cancers.
And the goal of immunotherapy is to stimulate immune responses to cause those cancers to
disappear.
When I began working, there were certainly no effective immunotherapies at all.
The first immunotherapy ever developed was the administration of Interleukin-2, which
I started in 1976.
Well, we treated 66 patients over the course of many years, trying to find the best ways
to stimulate the body’s immune system.
None of those treatments worked.
66 consecutive patients died until the 67th patient, a woman named Linda, who I can use
her name because she’s been in newspapers around the country.
Linda is now alive 30 years later.
She had widespread melanoma.
It all disappeared.
And she was only the first of many patients now shown to respond to immunotherapy.
Interleukin-2 was only effective for a small fraction of patients, but it proved Dr. Rosenberg’s
idea could work.
He and his team have spent the last 30 years trying to improve the treatment.
Recently, they’ve had a breakthrough, thanks to advances in genetic engineering.
Essentially, they can take your own immune cells and reprogram them to attack cancer.
We can isolate the lymphocytes from the blood, the immune warriors of the body, and then
introduce new genes into the lymphocytes to give them a property that will recognize
and destroy the cancer.
We then go on and expand those cells to large numbers and administer them to patients.
Dr. Rosenberg is now testing this approach on patients who fail to respond to any other
forms of treatment.
So Mr. Oaks came to us, having been through multiple chemotherapy regimens that had not
helped him.
And he came to us with a large grapefruit-sized mass in his abdomen, and you can see it on
this CAT scan right here.
They finally said, the chemo isn’t working for you.
You’re not responding well to it, so there’s nothing more we can do for you.
However, there is some new experimental treatment that we can do for you.
There is some new experimental programs that are being conducted at National Institutes
of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and we’re going to try to get you into those.
They took a little bit of my blood and did a little work on it in their laboratory for
about five days, put it back in, and let it go to work, attacking the cancer.
The treatment is pretty simple.
In about a month, it’s done.
When we came back for our first checkup, it was really the first indication of how well
the treatment worked.
They said, we see no active cancer, and my wife and I just grabbed each other’s hands
and said, thank you, God, and thank you, Dr. Rosenberg.
It’s a great relief.
Hello, sir.
Delighted to see you again.
Good to see you again.
I’m a little greasy here.
I don’t care.
You can clean my hands.
There you go.
That’s good.
So that large mass that you had in the belly, we see it continuing to shrink.
It’s down to about that big now.
But it’s dead, as best we can tell.
The tumor has completely responded.
So we’re thrilled for you.
We are thrilled also.
Yes.
We’ve learned a lot from you that I think are going to help a lot of other people as well.
It’s a very new kind of approach, as you know, where we genetically manipulate the immune
system.
But in this situation, it seems to be working well.
Any questions that you have for me?
Well, not right now.
If you don’t mind, I’ll forget I had cancer for about three more months.
That’s the ideal way to go.
And back for another check.
That’s what we like.
So nice to meet you again.
Thanks so much.
Appreciate it.
Good.
We stay in touch.
Good.
Thank you.
All right.
Dr. Rosenberg has had huge success with this latest version of his treatment.
It’s caused regression in more than 70% of lymphoma patients in his clinical trials.
It’s an exciting moment for the field of immunotherapy that Dr. Rosenberg pioneered,
and it’s taken him over 40 years of single-minded pursuit to get to this point.
But he’s the first to point out that any talk of a cure is still a long way off.
The problem is that it doesn’t always work.
And especially when it comes to solid tumors, it works much less well than it does in patients
with these blood cell tumors, lymphomas.
So we’re working around the clock now to apply these kinds of approaches to patients
with the common solid cancers, such as those of the colon and the pancreas and the ovary
and the prostate.
Until we can apply effective treatments to all innocent people who develop cancer,
there’s plenty of work to be done.

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