Patients and doctors are in shock after early trials of a drug to treat rectal cancer led to remission in all 12 participants, PEOPLE reports.
Each patient took the drug dostarlimab for six months. At the end of the trial, the scans of each one of them came back completely clear — with no identifiable cancer.
“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the study authors, told The New York Times.
“What’s really remarkable is this is the first time I know of in solid tumor oncology where we’ve had a 100% complete response, and we’ve completely omitted the normal standard of care,” he added to Stat News.
Typically, rectal cancer patients can expect to endure chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, often ending up with permanent complications and a need for colostomy bags. But not one of the 12 participants in the small trial needs any further treatment, PEOPLE reports.
“There were a lot of happy tears,” Dr. Andrea Cercek, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a co-author of the study, published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine, told the Times.
Each patient who participated in the trial were in similar stages of their cancer, according to people, in each person, it was locally advanced in the rectum but had not spread to other organs. For the trial, which was backed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, they each took dostarlimab — which exposes cancer cells to allow the immune system to fight them — every three weeks for six months.
While other cancer researchers say that the drug looks promising, they also emphasized that a larger-scale trial is needed to see if it will work for more patients and if the cancers are truly in remission, per The Times.
But for now, patients and doctors alike are celebrating the slice of hope they’ve been given.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” Cercek said in a press release from the hospital, “to get these happy tears and happy emails from the patients in this study who finish treatment and realize, ‘Oh my God, I get to keep all my normal body functions that I feared I might lose to radiation or surgery.’ “