Andrea Cercek, MD

The rates of rectal cancer are increasing in young adults. Treatment for rectal cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. These therapies can have a negative effect on the quality of life of survivors. Radiation can cause infertility and problems with bowel and bladder function, as well as sexual health. Up to one third of the patients need a permanent colostomy so they do not have normal bowel function. Due to these issues, there has been an interest in finding ways to improve treatment for rectal cancer so that radiation and/or surgery may not be necessary. One way we are trying to improve treatment of cancer, including rectal cancer, is with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy empowers the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. When this happens, it is very effective. Funding from the V Foundation will support a clinical trial that will treat rectal cancer that is mismatch repair proficient with immunotherapy first. The project team believes that improved immunotherapies like Botensilimab (anti CTLA4) and Basltilimab (PD-1), and earlier treatment before the tumor has spread, will lead to responses. This research has the potential to change the treatment paradigm of all early-stage rectal cancers and omit radiation and surgery in those patients whose cancers disappear with immunotherapy and chemotherapy alone. This will be an important finding for patients’ quality of life. It will also teach us how to make the immune system work against cancers where it has not worked in the past.

Location: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - New York
Proposal: Neoadjuvant Botensilimab and Balstilimab in mismatch-repair proficient rectal adenocarcinoma
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