It wasn’t looking good for Judy Perkins. Her breast cancer had come back with a vengeance after a 2003 mastectomy and she had big tumors in her chest and on her liver.But an experimental new approach that combines new immunotherapy drugs with a tailor-made therapy to boost her own immune system pulled Perkins back from the brink of death. She’s just completed a 1,200-mile kayaking trip around the state of Florida and is looking forward to decades more of life.“I hit the jackpot,” said Perkins, who is now 52 and cancer-free more than two years later.
Perkins really is lucky. The intensive, tailored approach only helps 15 percent of the patients who tried it, said Dr. Steven Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute, who led the team that treated Perkins.But Rosenberg, who has dedicated his career to finding a way to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer, think her case has taken his quest a big step forward.“We are getting better all the time,” said Rosenberg, whose findings are published in the journal Nature Medicine.