NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Scientists have reported a breakthrough in the fight against cervical cancer.
Research presented at an annual meeting of thousands of cancer experts could lead to treatment for many different cancers, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.
Aricca Wallace, 37, has been cancer free for 22 months, after undergoing an experimental treatment for cervical cancer. She brought one of her sons with her to a checkup.
“He looked at them and said, ‘thanks for saving my mom,'” Wallace said.
Wallace was diagnosed three years ago and received aggressive chemotherapy and radiation that did not work. Doctors told her that she had a year to live.
Now, she is one of two cervical cancer patients that has seen widespread tumors go away completely, following an immunotherapy study at the National Cancer Institute.
Scientists coaxed Wallace’s own t-cells, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, to recognize and attack her cancer.
“We grow them up in huge numbers and then give them back to the patients,” Dr. Christian Hinrichs, National Cancer Institute, explained.
Wallace said that the treatment gave her high fevers and made her sick with what felt like a bad viral infection.
“They kept reassuring me ‘this is a good thing, this means that it’s working, and that your body is reacting and it’s fighting.’ So, once they explained it to me that way I could battle through it,” she said.
Doctors only treated 9 patients and are not sure how long the response to the therapy will last. The two patients who responded completely are now 12 and 18 months cancer free.
Wallace said that she doesn’t take any day for granted.
“You don’t know. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You don’t know what your destiny is so you just live every moment to the fullest,” she said.
Researchers are still trying to figure out why other women in the study did not respond to the treatment, but experts remain excited as this was the first time that a body’s immune system has been turned against a solid tumor like cervical cancer.
Researchers hope that this will also work against other killers like breast, colon, long, and prostate cancers.
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