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A "wonder drug" that dissolves cancerous tumors
A new study has revealed an available wonder drug that could double survival rates for a deadly type of bowel cancer.

Trials found that pembrolizumab, sold under the brand name Keytruda, dissolves tumors, potentially sparing patients the need for surgery and chemotherapy.

It was also found that 6 out of 10 patients had no traces of the disease after months.

Doctors say that the drug, which is already used to treat breast, lung and cervical cancer in the British National Health Service, could change the rules of the game for bowel cancer patients.

The drug stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells, by targeting and blocking a protein called PD-1 on the surface of T cells, which stimulates them to find and kill cancer cells.

In the study, the research team at University College London recruited 32 patients from 5 NHS hospitals, in the second or third stage of the genetic subtype of bowel cancer, with a large number of mutations.

They were given three doses of pembrolizumab over a period of 9 weeks before surgery, via a 30-minute injection in the back of the hand, where it stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.

After completing immunotherapy, patients underwent surgery to remove the tumor area in the intestine.

The results showed that 59% of patients had no trace of cancer left when tested (usually after 5 to 19 months), indicating that they did not even need surgery.

Doctors said this was a significant improvement compared to the current standard treatment, which involves surgery to remove the tumor followed by 3 to 6 months of chemotherapy.

"Immunotherapy can make tumors disappear before surgery. If you dissolve the cancer before surgery, the chances of survival will triple," said Dr Kai-Kin Shiu, from the University College London Cancer Institute.

He added: "We need to wait and see whether patients in our trial will remain cancer-free for a longer period of time, but the initial indications are very positive."

Patients will be monitored over the next few years to evaluate overall survival and relapse rates, the researchers said, presenting the findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.


  1. It potentially eliminates the need for surgery and chemotherapy.

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