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Two Women Cured of Cervical Cancer using Immune Therapy

Update Date: Jun 02, 2014 12:32 PM EDT

According to a new pilot study, doctors were able to successfully treat two women's cervical cancer by using immune therapy. The researchers reported that the treatment completely cured the patients' cervical cancer and so far, the patients have remained cancer-free for more than one year.

The study, which was conducted at the National Cancer Institute, recruited nine women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer that was caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). All of the patients received an immune-based therapy, which is a relatively new form of treatment that takes the patient's own cells and uses them to fight the tumor.

In this experimental treatment program, the researchers headed by Dr. Christian Hinrichs from the Cancer Institute, isolated the immune system T cells that were attacking the tumor in each woman's body. These cells were multiplied in the lab and then administered to the patient in a one-time infusion as a form of treatment.

"This proof-of-principle study shows that adoptive transfer of HPV-targeted T cells can cause complete remission of metastatic cervical cancer and that this remission can be long-lasting," Dr. Hinrichs said according to Philly.

Out of the nine patients, the treatment was capable of killing the tumors completely in two of them. One of the patients was Arrica Wallace from Manhattan, KS, who was diagnosed with the cancer in 2011. The tumor had spread throughout her body and did not respond to the strongest chemotherapy and radiation options. The other patient, whose name was not disclosed, has been cancer-free for 15 months. The researchers cautioned that they do not know whether or not the cancer will return in the long run.

"I couldn't give up," said Wallace, a mother of two, reported by ABC News. "It's been 22 months since treatment and 17 months of completely clean scans."

A third patient experienced tumor shrinkage that only lasted three months. The remaining six patients did not benefit at all from this type of treatment. The researchers plan to research why immune therapy failed in these cases. On top of that, the team is currently testing immune-based treatments for throat, anal and other types of cancers that are caused by HPV.

This study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference located in Chicago, IL

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