Two and a half years ago, 52-year-old Judy Perkins was given only three months to live.
The engineer living in Florida was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and underwent a mastectomy.
A decade later, the cancer returned more aggressively than before, and after undergoing seven different types of chemotherapy and having her lymph modes removed, doctors found tumours the size of fists in her chest and liver.
Doctors gave her only three months to live.
It was then that Perkins met Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National Institute of Health who had been working on an experimental treatment.
According to the New York Post, Rosenberg closely studied Perkins’ immune cells, “finding those white blood cells capable of detecting genetic mutations and fighting cancer.” Those cells were then extracted and grown in a lab, before 90 billion of them were injected into Perkins’ blood stream.
“I think it had been maybe 10 days since I’d gotten the cells, and I could already feel that tumour starting to get soft,” Perkins told CBS.
Scientists have described this injection harvested by Perkins’ immune system a promising world first, with the Institute of Cancer Research stating: “This fascinating and exciting study in a single breast cancer patient provides a major ‘proof-of-principle’ step forward, in showing how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to attack even the most difficult-to-treat cancer.”
These trials have been administered on patients with liver, cervical and bowel cancer in the past, with mixed results. Perkins knew when she volunteered for the experimental therapy that there would be risks, and NBC reported that two of her friends who underwent the treatment, died.
Perkins considers her recovery a “miracle”.
“I am beyond amazed,” she told The Telegraph UK. “I have now been free of cancer for two years.
“Experts may call it extended remission but I call it a cure.”
Perkins now leads an active and fulfilling life.
Professor Frances Boyle, the director of the Patricia Ritchie Centre for Cancer Care and Research at Sydney’s Mater Hospital, told ABC, “This is absolutely precision medicine. But it’s not a drug. It’s a technique done in a laboratory.”
Essentially, she explained, “They were able to give the patient’s own immune system a major boost.”