A small but significant trial of a drug in 18 rectal cancer patients gave a historical outcome as the cancer completely vanished in these patients after taking a drug called Dostarlimab.

The trial was sponsored by a firm called GlaxoSmithKline and its findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Sunday. It involved patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, US.

The cancer vanished completely in the patients without them having to go through other treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. All of them have remained free of cancer for two years.

The cancer was undetectable in all physical exams such as endoscopy; positron emission tomography or PET scans or MRI scans. The trials are still ongoing and the experts are recruiting more volunteers for the same. This is the first time that an experimental drug has been able to obliterate cancer cells completely.

The drug was given to the patients for six months every third week. It works by unmasking cancer cells which allows the immune system to destroy them.

"I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer," Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre and one of the authors of the study, told The New York Times.

None of the trial participants showed any significant side effects either, added the report. The trial, albeit small in scale, has given a ray of hope to people suffering from the dreaded disease which claims thousands of lives every year. However, more studies will need to conducted to say anything more about the drug.

"Very little is known about the duration of time needed to find out whether a clinical complete response to dostarlimab equates to cure," said Dr. Hanna K. Sanoff of the University of North Carolina.

Cervical cancer
Representative photo by American Cancer Society/Getty Images. American Cancer Society/Getty Images