Dostarlimab, a ground-breaking cancer treatment, allows immunotherapy to use the body's immune system to find and eliminate cancer cells. (Image: DC)
Carrie Downey, a 42-year-old civil servant from Wales, had Stage III bowel cancer, but the disease disappeared after six months of taking the drug Dostarlimab, according to reports.
As per the Swansea Bay University Health Board, tests have indicated that the ailment is no longer present in Carrie.
Dostarlimab is a type of immunotherapy, a targeted treatment that aids the immune system in the destruction of cancer cells. When other options for treatment, like surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, don’t work, it could save lives.
Cellular immunotherapy has been gaining importance in recent years in the treatment of various tumours, says Dr D Nageshwar Reddy, chairman and founder, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology & AIG Hospitals.
"Immunotherapy has transformed the way malignancies of all types are treated around the world in the last ten years. This type of treatment serves to boost the body’s own immune system in the fight against cancer, and as a result, it has made major advances in improving the survival rates and overall well-being of these patients," says Dr Reddy.
Dostarlimab is a monoclonal antibody that acts as an immune checkpoint inhibitor. "It aids your immune system in discovering and combating cancer cells that were previously concealed, perhaps slowing or even halting cancer progression," says Dr Nagendra Parvataneni, senior consultant & head of the department Surgical Oncology, KIMS Hospitals.
He adds, "Dostarlimab works by suppressing your immune system. Consider cancer cells to be intruders, and your immune system to be a watchdog. In most cases, the guard will be tricked into letting the robbers in. Dostarlimab is like the boss who walks into the room and orders, ‘Don’t let them in!’ As a result, your immune system will be better able to identify and destroy cancer cells. It’s similar to boosting your immune system to combat cancer."
New roadmap in cancer treatment
"Immunotherapy is a successful treatment option for cancer patients who have genetic abnormalities that cause recurrence of the disease following traditional treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. With Dostarlimab presently costing roughly $15,000 in the United States, the cost of immunotherapy becomes a critical factor, particularly in low-to middle-income nations," says Dr Nageshwar Reddy.
How it works
Cancer cells can hide from the immune system. "They have a protein on their surface called PD-L1, which fools the immune system into thinking they are regular cells. Consider it a hidden code/password used by cancer cells to avoid being targeted. Dostarlimab functions as a key that fits the lock made by PD-1 and PD-L1. It breaks down this ‘disguise’ and allows the immune system to recognise cancer cells as intruders. As a result, the immune system can then attack and kill cancer cells," elaborates Dr Nagendra Parvataneni.
Dostarlimab has not yet commenced, primarily due to its specific application, necessitating meticulous patient selection, says Dr Nageshwar Reddy. "Research using different immunotherapy medicines is continuing. The Dostarlimab trial at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Centre has shown promising results, but due to the small sample size, long-term data collection is critical. A multi-centre initial human trial called GARNET is now underway in the United States and is expected to enrol more than 800 patients," adds Dr Reddy.
"This drug is currently unavailable in India. However, it can be bought from the United Kingdom with a prescription and costs `8 to 10 lakh. The medicine is exclusively licenced for uterine and colon malignancies," says Dr Nagendra Parvataneni adding, "Currently, four persons have availed of the treatment in India. Three drug courses procured by Dr Suresh Advani, oncologist in Mumbai. There was also one case from Delhi."
This drug is currently unavailable in India. However, it can be bought from the United Kingdom with a prescription and costs `8 to 10 lakh. The medicine is exclusively licenced for uterine and colon malignancies." — Dr Nagendra Parvataneni, senior consultant & head, department of Surgical Oncology, KIMS Hospitals
Immunotherapy has transformed the way malignancies of all types are treated around the world in the last ten years. This type of treatment serves to boost the body’s own immune system in the fight against cancer, and as a result, it has made major advances in improving the survival rates and overall well-being of these patients." — Dr D Nageshwar Reddy, chairman and founder, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology & AIG Hospitals