New drug gives ‘uplift of hope’ for bowel cancer research, says Dame Deborah James

DAME Deborah James says a new drug trial offers an “uplift of hope” for bowel cancer patients.

The results of the research, published this week, stunned doctors.


Bowel Babe Dame Deborah James said an experimental drug trial on bowel cancer patients was positive newsCredit: bowelbabe/Instagram
Dame Debs said the drug could work for a very type of bowel cancer patient


Dame Debs said the drug could work for a very type of bowel cancer patientCredit: Instagram/ bowelbabe
But she said it "uplifts hope" and opens up more trials


But she said it “uplifts hope” and opens up more trialsCredit: Instagram/ bowelbabe

Twelve patients who took the drug – called dostarlimab – saw their tumours “vanish”.

One of the key researchers said the never-before-seen results were “every cancer doctors’ dream”.

Dostarlimab is an immunotherapy drug, meaning it trains the person’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

There is still a long way before the medicine would be available to patients, and only some would potentially benefit.

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Experts stated those studied had tumours that account for around five to 10 per cent of all patients with rectal cancer – a type of bowel cancer.

Forty-year-old Dame Deborah, who was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer in 2016, praised the research on Instagram last night.

She wrote: “The drug is for a VERY specific subset of Bowel cancer peeps.

“For the 6% it offer an uplift of hope on the immunotherapy options that work well but not at this level.

“For the rest of us, we still have unmet needs. There are hundreds of clinical trials going on to try to get immunotherapy to work in the majority MSI Bowel cancer group.

“But no clear breakthroughs YET!

“However results like this will then open up trials onto the mainstream subset so that’s positive!”

Mum-of-two Dame Debs set up the Bowelbabe fund at the start of May in order to “speed up” bowel cancer research.

Since its launch it has already hit £6.7million, with at least an additional £1million coming from the sales of T-shirts, handbags and roses inspired by Dame Debs.

Sun writer Dame Debs urged people to donate as her dying wish, as she is now receiving palliative care at her parents home in Woking.

Happy tears

The results of the dostarlimab trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Each participant who took the drug entered remission, with zero signs of the disease in their body.

It is now two years on from the first trial, and none of the 12 patients have needed further treatment.

Doctors have been unable to find signs of their colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer.

Dr Andrea Cercek, oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a co-author of the paper, told CNN: “It’s absolutely incredible.

“We didn’t expect it. We’ve certainly never seen this before.
“It’s really what cancer doctors’ dreams are made of, to see a response like this… Such incredible efficacy with really almost no toxicity.”

She told The New York Times: “There were a lot of happy tears.

“Especially among patients in whom standard treatment would affect childbearing potential.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to get these happy tears and happy emails from the patients in this study who finish treatment and realise, ‘Oh my God, I get to keep all my normal body functions that I feared I might lose to radiation or surgery’.”

Co author, Dr Luis Alberto Diaz added he believes this is the first time a drug has had this impact in the history of cancer.

Other experts have also praised the treatment, which costs around £9,000 per dose.

Dr Hanna Sanoff, oncologist at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, said: “These results are cause for great optimism.

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“But without further research, dostarlimab cannot yet replace the standard, curative treatment for mismatch repair-deficient rectal cancer.”

Bowel cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer after lung.

Around 43,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year, with 268,000 Brits living with the illness.

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