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Miracles and cancer immunotherapy: An in-depth look at medical miracles

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Spontaneous regressions seem to occur Spontaneous regressions seem to occur in almost all cancers

During the 14th century, Peregrine Laziosi, an Italian priest, developed a large bone tumour in his leg. The night before a surgeon planned amputation, St Peregrine prayed intensely. He fell into a trance and saw a vision of Jesus Christ touching his leg. The following morning, the cancer had disappeared. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer sufferers, died in 1345, at the age of 80 years and 20 years after the vision. The malignancy did not recur.1,2

Miracles aside, doctors first reported spontaneous cancer regression in 1742.3 But researchers have only recently begun to explore the mechanisms that underlie spontaneous regression. Much of this research, as we’ll see, focuses on the immune system. These studies contributed to the development of immunotherapies, highly effective new treatments for several difficult-to-manage cancers, that encourage the immune system to attack the malignancy.4

Spontaneous regression

Spontaneous regressions (complete or partial disappearance of the tumour), or remissions (the improvement in signs and symptoms) occur when the patient is not receiving a treatment that could explain the improvement and can last for years. Spontaneous remissions of renal cell carcinoma have lasted up to 20 years, for example.1

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