NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Judy Perkins has traveled the world kayaking and hiking. But in 2013, at age 47, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn't want to slow down. She went through a series of standard treatments, including chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
But nothing was working until she joined a trial at the National Cancer Institute, where researchers thought they could tap into Judy's own immune system to fight her cancer.
Researchers grew millions of cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, she said, and reinfused them into her body in December 2015.
"That's basically when they cured me," said Judy, who has been cancer-free for 22 months.
Researchers published the findings of her case in the medical journal Nature Medicine.
Stephanie Bernik, the chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital, said the results are encouraging. She said the study gives hope to patients that immunotherapy may work where other therapies don't.
Researchers also believe the same treatment could help reverse internal-organ cancers but a lot more needs to be done.
"Ideally, in the future, we will use it alone and it will be a very simple therapy that you can give to a patient—like a vaccine we use for the diseases we already know," Bernik said.
Judy is living proof it worked. She spoke to Fox 5 via Skype from a couch in Nova Scotia where she is sea kayaking.
"I have been taking advantage of the extra life they've given me," she said.
The research is still experimental. But doctors are encouraged they'll learn from this study and hopefully be able to apply it to a broader population.