Nightly News   |  June 01, 2013

Immunotherapy offers hope for some cancer patients

Immune therapy drugs work by coaxing white blood cells that usually fight bacteria and viruses to kill cancer cells. For now, the drugs usually work in only about 20 to 40 percent of patients and doctors can't yet predict which ones. NBC’s Robert Bazell reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there is news tonight from a cancer conference in chicago of a promising new treatment for several kinds of cancer that is already producing remarkable results in some patients and could eventually help many more. here's robert bazell .

>> go through it. three.

>> maureen had an amazing response as did bob, to a new type of treatment for lung cancer . while immune therapy is still in experimental stage, many doctors see the drugs as a big part of the future of cancer care .

>> the benefit has the potential to be huge. we're able to take tumors, lung cancer , melanoma, kidney cancer , breast cancer , head and neck cancer and we're seeing tumors shrink and i think the thing that's quite impressive is that these patients continue to do well.

>> that's good.

>> o grady was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in early 2009 . it spread through her body and even though she endured brutal chemo therapy , her tumors continued to grow.

>> i thought i was going to be dying in the near future .

>> three years ago, she started an experimental therapy and got better quickly. sin since june, she has taken no medications and has reached milestones she thought she would miss. immune therapy drugs work by coaxing white blood cells to kill cancer cells . for now, the drugs usually work in only about 20 to 40% of patients and doctors can't predict which one, but when they do work, the response is often quick. bob's lung cancer was a huge mass in his chest. these scans show how it shrank in months.

>> you can see dramatic gregs regression of this match.

>> things seem to be going phenomenally well. hopefully, it will continue for a long time.

>> the therapy is very new. so far, there's only one approved drug on the market, but experts say there will be many within the next few years and they hope that by combining the new drugs with each other and other therapy, they'll effectively treat more patients.