Lowcountry doctors, patients helped secure ‘game-changer’ cancer treatment approval
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2022/03/28/lowcountry-doctors- patients-helped-secure-game- changer-cancer-treatment- approval
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Clinical trials for a newly-approved cancer treatment for lung cancer in the Lowcountry helped get the drug ready for people around the world, Lowcountry medical officials say.
The Food and Drug Administration just approved Opdivo and Charleston Oncology and Roper St. Francis Hospital say their team and their patients played a key role in the path to the drug’s approval.
During the international clinical trials of this treatment, Roper St. Francis had the most patients enrolled in the trial in the entire world. Dr. Gene Saylors, an oncologist and hematologist at Charleston Oncology at Roper’s Cancer Center, says they had 17 participants in the clinical trial from 2017 to 2019. Most of the surgery that took place during the trials also took place at Roper. It took about two years since the trial wrapped up for the treatment to get approved by the FDA, which happened this month. Saylors said this immunotherapy treatment is used with chemo in the nine weeks leading up to surgery for people with early-stage lung cancer. He says they saw great success with this strategy. “The patients who had immunotherapy, when they went to surgery, 24% or nearly 1 in 4, the cancer was all gone. When you just gave chemotherapy for that same duration, in only 2% of the patients was the cancer gone. So, it’s just a game-changer,” Saylors said. Even in the years after the treatment and the surgery, Saylors says the cancer didn’t come back for many patients. “We truly are making a grand difference in how people do,” Saylors said. “If they just take a pause and take some treatment before they go to surgery, their likelihood of being alive two years after surgery is substantially better.” Saylors says he expects new medications to be added to immunotherapy regimens in the future, but that does take years of clinical trials to happen. Those trials are actively taking place at Charleston Oncology and Roper.