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Cancer break-through for Port St. Lucie woman

(WPEC)

A woman in Port St. Lucie is alive today thanks to a groundbreaking treatment for cancer called “Immuno-Therapy.”

In 2015, doctors told 52-year-old Judy Perkins her days were numbered. “I came to realize that I was gonna die, and that's where my mind was, you know,” shared Perkins. “I felt bad for my family, but I was grateful for the life I had had.”

Despite Hormonal and Chemo-Therapy, the cancer spread to her chest and liver. “I had a mastectomy. I had all my lymph nodes out… ten years later, 2013, I felt another lump on the same side, and this time it ended up being stage four, “she said. “So yep… I entered the world of cancer patient. Serious cancer patient.”

Fortunately, Perkins found Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National Institute of Health. Genetic mutations in the cancer cell are the trigger causing those cells to grow out of control. Dr. Rosenberg’s new approach finds the few immune cells already in the body that can see those genetic mutations and turn them into an army of cancer killers.

In a lab, Rosenberg’s team grew those few immune cells into billions, then injected them into Perkins’ bloodstream. Those cells then ganged up to attack her cancer cells.

“I think it had been maybe ten days since I'd gotten the cells, and I could already feel that tumor starting to get soft,” Perkins said. “In ten days… by then I was like, dang, this is really working."

Two-and-a-half years later, Perkins has no evidence of cancer. Rosenberg believes the immune cells are still at work.

Perkins is one of three women to receive the treatment. She was the only one who responded to the treatment.

Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. John LePoook with CBS News explained, “What’s so exciting is opposed to chemotherapy and radiation and hormonal therapy where once you stop giving it, that’s the end of the therapy. Where in this case, those cells are in Judy Perkins. They’re going to be in her body for the rest of her life.”

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