Judy Perkins is a name that will be in the medical text books. She is the first person to be declared free of metastatic breast cancer after a course of immunotherapy. That’s a big deal. She is what’s known in the world of clinical trials as an “exceptional responder.” SurvivorNet went to meet Judy about a year ago at her home in Florida and we shot this short documentary.
In 2003, Judy was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and had a mastectomy. In 2013, it came back – and this time it was metastatic. Standard treatment was not working and in 2015, Judy learned of an immunotherapy trial at the National Cancer Institute which is part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethseda, Maryland. (There are several immunotherapy clinical trials currently underway.)Read More
Dr. Steven Rosenberg, Chief of Surgery at the NCI and a pioneer in the field of immunotherapy, says Judy was one of the first patients “to teach us that by carefully looking at (her) body’s immune cells, we could identify cells that uniquely recognize her cancer and by growing them in a lab and giving her enough of them we could actually cause the cancer to regress completely.” (Dr. Rosenberg talks about the promise of immunotherapy here.) The experimental approach is called adoptive cell therapy, and while it is showing great promise, it’s important to note that it doesn’t work for everyone.