Cancer study attracts attention: – Crying on stage

During the ASCO cancer congress in Chicago this Pentecost weekend, American researchers presented one study which has received a lot of attention.

Through immunotherapy, 14 of 14 patients with a specific form of rectal cancer became completely cancer-free. It has attracted attention, also in Norway.

– The young oncologist who put it forward cried on stage. It was strong to watch, says Anne Hansen Ree to TV 2.

Ree is chief physician at Akershus University Hospital (Ahus) and professor at the University of Oslo, and even attended the congress where the study was presented.

She believes the study is groundbreaking, also for the treatment of Norwegian patients.

Better quality of life

The patients in the study had so-called locally advanced rectal cancer.

RESEARCHER: Anne Hansen Ree has researched cancer treatment herself. Photo: UiO

– This means that it is rectal cancer that is spreading, but has not done so yet. They have a high risk of spreading, and need a lot of therapy, says Ree.

Common to the research patients was also that they had a tumor that was easily “recognized” by the immune system. It makes immunotherapy effective.

Usually, these patients receive extensive treatment consisting of radiation therapy, followed by chemotherapy and major surgery. The combination can have major side effects for the rest of your life.

Among the side effects are impaired bowel and bladder function, as well as impaired sexual function.

More gentle treatment

Immunotherapy, however, gives significantly less side effects, which in addition are transient.

– After a while, it will probably be as if they have never had treatment. It is much more gentle, says Ree.

Facts: Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is also called biological therapy and is a type of treatment that stimulates the body’s natural defense mechanisms in the fight against cancer, but also in other diseases such as asthma. It uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore the function of the immune system.


She suggests that the study could provide a better and more gentle cancer treatment for about 20 Norwegians each year, who will be qualified for the treatment.

– This is a direct consequence of the fact that we constantly research for our patients, and that patients join studies. It helps to develop knowledge.

– Was completely unthinkable

Although the study is small, the professor believes that the results are above expectations.

– That the tumor of 14 out of 14 disappeared in a way just does not happen, but then it has happened. Five years ago, it was completely unthinkable. We did not have the knowledge and the medicine.

True enough, the possibilities are kept open for patients to have relapses, and they are therefore further observed.

– If they have not had a relapse in a year, then there is very strong data, Ree believes.

CELL POISON: With immunotherapy, some cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy, as well as radiation and surgery.  Photo: Matt Rourke / AP Photo / NTB

CELL POISON: With immunotherapy, some cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy, as well as radiation and surgery. Photo: Matt Rourke / AP Photo / NTB

Must be approved

In order for Norwegian patients to benefit from the research results, the method of treatment must be approved by NGICG, which is the Norwegian professional group for bowel cancer.

Eva Hofsli, associate professor at NTNU and chief physician at St. Olav’s hospital, is a member of the professional group and believes an approval is likely.

– These are extremely good, promising results. With such good results, we will of course have a discussion in the professional group and make a recommendation. To recommend such a treatment for the qualified, we must get approval from the decision forum, but it will probably be relatively easy to get it approved here, Hofsli says to TV 2.

Treatment with immunotherapy is relatively expensive, but Hofsli emphasizes that it will apply to quite a few patients in Norway.

– But these are such good results that it is very tempting to change the treatment routines we have.

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