Positive results of immunotherapy on bowel cancer survival | Fieldfisher
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Positive results of immunotherapy on bowel cancer survival

Sevim Ahmet

Good news from scientists investigating the use of existing immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab for people with an aggressive form of bowel cancer.

In a trial led by University College London on a group of 32 patients with bowel cancer from five NHS hospitals, it was found that survival rates could triple by giving patients the immunotherapy drug. The drug is already prescribed to treat other forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, breast and skin cancer.

The patients were given three doses of pembrolizumab over nine weeks via a 30- minute injection into the back of the hand. It works to stimulate the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.

After finishing the course, the patients had surgery to remove the area of their bowel where they had tumour. 59 per cent of the patients had no trace of cancer left, suggesting they did not even require surgery. The other 41 per cent had their tumours removed and are now free of the disease.

Doctors describe the treatment as a huge improvement on the current treatment that involves surgery to remove the tumour and three to six months of chemotherapy. The new treatment approach could be available within the NHS in two years.

I know from my colleagues in the industrial disease team who support clients diagnosed with asbestos cancer that the drug has had positive results for treating mesothelioma. Any hope for people with bowel cancer is therefore very good news indeed.

My colleagues and I generally experience bowel cancer, the fourth most common cancer in the UK, when someone comes to us with a case of delayed diagnosis that impacts their outcome.

If bowel cancer is diagnosed early and treatment begins, the chance of survival is quite high. However, if the cancer is left undiagnosed and untreated, following inadequate examination and failure to refer to a specialist, for example, it is likely to grow and spread to other parts of the body. Nine in ten patients with stage one cancer survive for five years, but this falls to one in ten for those with stage four.

If you think you may have a claim for a delayed diagnosis of bowel cancer, do speak to me or Sat Sokhi for free and no-obligation advice. We will discuss your case with you and tell you quickly and honestly if we think we can help.

Read more about delayed diagnosis of bowel cancer.