The science behind the cancer cure by monoclonal antibody dostarlimab

What is the News?

Recently, 12 patients in the United States were completely cured of rectal cancer without requiring any surgery or chemotherapy. The trial used a monoclonal antibody called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months for the treatment

What is Dostarlimab?

Dostarlimab is a type of monoclonal antibody. It blocks proteins called checkpoints which are made up of immune system cells such as T cells, and some cancer cells.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules. They serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance, modify or mimic the immune system’s attack on unwanted cells.

Each monoclonal antibody is designed in a way that it binds to only one antigen.

These checkpoints help keep immune responses from acting too strong and may prevent T cells from killing cancer cells. When these checkpoints are blocked, T cells are free to kill cancer cells more efficiently.

Examples of checkpoint proteins found on T cells or cancer cells include PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4, and B7-1.

Can Dostarlimab work against all cancers?

According to experts, drugs like dostarlimab can be used only in patients with the genetic property of mismatch repair(MMR) deficiency.

What is Mismatch Repair Deficiency?

‘Mismatch repair deficient’ cancer is most common among colorectal, gastrointestinal, and endometrial cancers. Patients suffering from this condition lack the genes to correct typos in the DNA that occur naturally while cells make copies.

Can such treatment be available in India?

Cost is believed to be a major hurdle.

For instance, an immunotherapy treatment can cost around Rs 4 lakh per month, with patients needing the treatment for six months to a year.

Hence, that’s why experts have said that precision medicine such as immunotherapy drugs for particular types of cancers is still at a nascent stage in India. It would take at least ten years for it to become commonplace.

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: The science behind the cancer cure, and the therapy’s future in India” published in Indian Express on 9th June 2022.

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