Rare Cancer Trial Raises Hopes for Future Treatment Options

The study was done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and focused on a rare form of rectal cancer

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A new study that found complete remission for a small group of patients Witt rectal cancer is encouraging, but a doctor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute said the treatment’s not for everyone.

Dr. Ben Schlechter specializes in rectal cancers.

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"I’ve had six or seven messages today from patients asking for this drug," he said, explaining that while the results of the trial are promising, it only looks at a small group with a rare form of cancer.

"For the average person with rectal cancer who walks in the door, it has no relationship at all to normal rectal cancer," he said.

The study was done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and backed by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. Twelve patients with a rare kind of rectal cancer were given immunotherapy, and after six months all of them were cancer free. There are only several thousand cases of this form of colon cancer in the country every year, the doctor said.

Treatment for people with rectal cancer typically includes chemotherapy and surgery. It is one of the most dangerous forms of the disease.

"Rectal cancer maybe accounts for less than a third of all colon cancer but probably accounts for 40 to 45% of all deaths from colon cancer," Schlechter said.

The rate of colon cancer in younger people has been on the rise since the 70s. All the more reason for people to get screened, the expert said.

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