A Florida woman who was given just months to live is now cancer-free thanks to an experimental immunotherapy, researchers said.
Judy Perkins, 49, told the BBC she was given only three months to live after being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer that was spreading quickly throughout her body. She said she had “tennis ball-sized tumors” in her liver and “secondary cancers throughout her body." She said she was unable to be treated with conventional therapy.
However, she underwent therapy that pumped “90 billion cancer-killing immune cells into her body.” She said she felt changes right away.
"About a week after [the therapy] I started to feel something, I had a tumor in my chest that I could feel shrinking," Perkins told the BBC. "It took another week or two for it to completely go away."
She recalled the medical staff "were all very excited and jumping around" after the tumors started to diminish.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute said the therapy was still in experimental stages but it could change cancer treatment. Dr. Steven Rosenberg, the chief of surgery at the institute, said the therapy was started after examining a person’s tumor then using the patient’s white blood cells to attack the cancer. The scientists “screen the patient's white blood cells and extract those capable of attacking the cancer” and then grow the cells.
"The very mutations that cause cancer turn out to be its Achilles heel,” Rosenberg told the BBC.
Rosenberg added the therapy was “highly experimental.”
"At lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy - a unique drug for every cancer patient - it is very different to any other kind of treatment,” he said.
As for Perkins, she said she has enjoyed her recovery by kayaking, backpacking and traveling.