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Israeli breakthrough helps cancer patients' bodies heal themselves

If the new treatment mechanism, known as immunotherapy, lives up to expectations, the world of oncology could undergo a real revolution within just a few years - meet Keytruda, Israeli drug for fighting metastatic melanoma.

At the age of 68, Prof. Ben-Shabbat noticed an odd-looking sore on his head. "They told me at the hospital that it's a melanoma and needs to be surgically removed," he relates. "After the operation, I said to myself, thank God it's gone." But the sore reappeared, on his neck this time. The doctors informed Ben-Shabbat and his family that they were dealing with a metastatic growth, and that Ben-Shabbat's future looked bleak. "I underwent surgery again," he recalls. "My wife and children asked the doctor how long I had to live. He said to them, 'Between five and seven months.'"

Things settled down again after the second operation – but not for long. And when a cancerous tumor was detected on his person for a third time, Ben-Shabbat began seeking answers elsewhere. "I saw a doctor who told me that more surgery was a waste of time, and he sent me for chemotherapy. I had four treatments, which destroyed a portion of my liver. After that, they gave me a biological drug that damaged my lungs. I felt like my time was running out. When another metastatic growth, which bled, appeared on my head, they sent me to Sheba Medical Center. The doctor said to me, 'They're doing a study there on cases like yours. Perhaps they'll agree to treat you.' I called and was told they were full up. Two days later, they called to say that one of the candidates had decided to leave, and that if I want, the place is mine."

And thus Ben-Shabbat began a series of IV treatments with a new revolutionary drug, which works on the body's immune system. The results, he says, were astounding. "The bleeding from my head ceased completely already after the first treatment," he recounts. "The tumor showed signs of shrinking already after the second and third treatments. And by the fifth and sixth treatments, I was already feeling well again."

Shortly thereafter, Ben-Shabbat was back to his usual self. "I live a totally normal life today," he says. "I come and go, and visit my children and grandchildren. I wish such a life on all of the people of Israel. I do a full-body CT scan every six weeks, and everything comes out clear. I've been reborn thanks to the drug I received."

Known as Keytruda, the drug that halted Ben-Shabbat's aggressive cancer is viewed today as the great hope for patients with metastatic melanoma, and just recently received US Food and Drug Administration approval. According to many experts in the field, Keytruda is likely to lead to a significant breakthrough in the treatment of cancer.

 This article has been republished with permission by www.ynetnews.com. Click here to continue reading.

Sarit Rosenblum | Ynet News

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