Medical research by Nobel laureates being used by Valley doctors to treat cancer patients

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Earlier this week, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to two of the pioneering researchers who are changing the way cancer is treated.

It's called immunotherapy, and it is being used by doctors in the Valley.

Three years ago, Former President Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with cancer. An MRI revealed four lesions on his brain, diagnosed as melanoma. Four months later, after undergoing a new auto-immune treatment, Carter announced the lesions were gone.

"Immuno[therapy] has probably been the biggest breakthrough we have had in cancer treatment over the past decade," said Dr. Mital Patel, an Oncologist at the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. He has used immunotherapy to treat patients.

"It's training your immune system to work against the cancer, and keep it under control," said Dr. Patel.

Patients are given an IV infusion every two to three weeks. For most patients, the side effects are minimal, and doctors are now using it as a first line treatment for some types of cancer.

"We know that immune works well with melanoma, lung cancer, kidney cancer, a lot of blood cancers, a particular proportion of colon cancers," said Dr. Patel. "It's provided options to patients who had no options."