“It’s been 22 months since treatment and 17 months of completely clean scans” showing no sign of cancer, Wallace said.
The second woman to have a complete response has been cancer-free for 15 months so far, said one study leader, Dr. Christian Hinrichs of the Bethesda, Maryland-based cancer institute.
“There’s no way to know” if the results will be permanent, he said.
A third woman had tumor shrinkage that lasted three months. The other six women did not respond to treatment and researchers are attempting to determine why.
Doctors are trying the treatment on several dozen more women with advanced cervical cancer and it could someday be offered at many cancer centers the way bone marrow and stem cell transplants are now.
Many private companies are pursuing other treatments that are given like drugs aimed at the immune system. Also discussed at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference:
—Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy, the first immune therapy to improve survival of advanced, inoperable melanoma, also helped prevent recurrence when given to people with earlier stage disease at regular intervals after surgery, a study of nearly 1,000 patients found. But severe side effects caused half to quit treatment, and five people died from it. Doctors think a lower dose might minimize these problems. The drug also costs more than $100,000 for initial treatment, so long-term cost is a concern.
—Nivolumab, an experimental therapy from Bristol-Myers, extended survival by 3 1/2 years on average when given with Yervoy to people with very advanced melanoma, far better than any previous treatments. Nine of 53 patients treated had complete remissions.
—Merck & Co.’s experimental therapy pembrolizumab gave one-year survival rates of about 69 percent in a study of 411 patients with very advanced melanoma, including many previously treated with Yervoy.
—Genentech’s experimental immune therapy for bladder cancer shrank tumors in 13 of 30 patients with advanced bladder cancer for which there are hardly any treatment options now. All signs of cancer disappeared in two patients.