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Birmingham doctor optimistic about new trial that clears cancer cells

Dr. Stephen Beck (WBMA/ZOOM){p}{/p}
Dr. Stephen Beck (WBMA/ZOOM)

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Rectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. according the American Cancer Society.

Actress Farrah Fawcett is one of the famous faces who lost their battle to rectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 44,850 new cases this year.

Now a new trial offers hope.

Dr. Stephen Beck is an oncologist at the Bruno Cancer Center at Ascension St. Vincent's.

He said “oh I think it’s an amazing study. It’s pretty unusual to have such dramatic results in any clinical trial.”

What's so amazing is the treatment eliminated the cancer for all 18 people in the trial using checkpoint inhibitor medicine.

None of the patients had clinically significant complications.

Dr. Beck wasn’t part of the study but said the results are something he’s never seen before.

“Also another exciting aspect to this trial is that, I don’t personally know of any other trial in which there was a complete response to every single patient that was given a medication. I think that has to be pretty unique among all the clinical trials I’ve read and that’s why oncologists across the country are excited about this" he said.

Researchers said it unmasks cancer cells.

This allowed the immune system to attack and destroy the cancer.

Dr. Beck said more data will be collected but he believes there could soon be help for many Birmingham cancer patients.

He said “I wouldn’t be surprised within the end of the year we might be employing this in some capacity.”

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The study was published Sunday in The New England Journal of Medicine and in The New York Times.

The American Cancer Society said rectal cancer diagnosis have dropped since the mid-eighties.

They believe it’s due to more screenings and lifestyle-related risk changes.

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Dr. Beck said new cancer treatments are coming out weekly whereas years ago, new treatments were possible once a year.

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