Sascha Roth was in her late 30s and feeling great. Then she noticed some bleeding when she used the bathroom. She went to see a gastroenterologist, who diagnosed her with rectal cancer. Her doctor, she recalled, “was as shocked as I was.”
A friend who had had colon cancer insisted Roth see her surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. That led to her becoming patient no. 1 in a study that is a striking example of the importance of efforts to test cancer drugs in earlier stages of disease.
As part of the study, Roth received the cancer drug Jemperli, made by GSK. The treatment made her cancer shrink until it was undetectable — what doctors call a complete response. It did the same for the 13 other participants in the clinical trial, all of whom, like Roth, had locally advanced rectal cancer. So far, all of them have been spared radiation, chemotherapy, and disfiguring surgery that often involves the removal of the rectum.
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