A positive shift in the health of former President Jimmy Carter was announced by Carter himself during a December 6 meeting of his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church. Saying that a recent MRI scan indicated that he was cancer-free, the news resulted in the entire group of 350 congregants at the Plains, GA church to erupt in cheers. Carter had also personally announced in August that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma cancer after signs of the disease had been detected on his brain.
At the time, the fear by many was that Carter’s diagnosis had become a terminal situation, since a complete cure is considered rare. However, through what’s considered innovative treatment at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, Carter indicated to the Sunday school group that no spread of the cancer had been detected. That treatment involved the use of a new cancer drug known as Keytruda, which focuses on two specific genes within the body, PD-1 and PD-L1. In traditional cases, a person’s immune system is fooled into allowing cancer cells to further develop. Last year, the drug had been given accelerated approval by the Food and Drug Administration for cases where the melanoma had spread, such as Carter.
The doctor who led the study said that roughly 75 percent of the patients using the drug have continued to see a decrease in such tumors. Carter also underwent more standard treatment, which involved what’s known as stereotactic radiation therapy. In this case, a solid beam of radiation was applied directly to just the four small spots where cancer had been found. Carter, who turned 91 on October 1, served one term as President from 1977-81, after also having served as governor of Georgia. Since leaving the White House career serving in a variety of capacities, many of which were charitable causes like Habitat for Humanity.
His efforts on behalf of achieving peace around the world resulted in him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. The first indication of any health issues for the still-active Carter came in May, when he cut short a trip to Guyana. He had been there to observe the national elections taking place in the country, and the only comment at the time came from a spokesman at the Carter Center. The brief statement only indicated that Carter wasn’t feeling well. Upon returning to the United States, the diagnosis was given as Carter simply having a bad cold, but within weeks, word came that he was suffering from cancer. On August 3, Carter underwent elective surgery after signs of cancer were detected on his liver.
It was at that time that his doctors realized that the disease had spread, with further scans showing that it had reached areas of his brain due to the presence of four lesions. The cancer diagnosis was something that Carter has dealt with countless times with family members throughout his life. In many of those cases, it was pancreatic cancer that was the cause, a disease that comes about with virtually no symptoms and usually results in a very short remaining life span.
Carter’s father, brother and two sisters all died from the disease, while his mother was originally diagnosed with breast cancer that eventually reached the pancreas. To be fully cured of cancer, an individual usually must be free of the disease anywhere from between three to five years. The potential success of this drug makes it a subject of interest for the medical profession, as well as pharmaceutical and insurance companies