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Medical Moment: Jelmyto helps treat kidney cancer

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 9:18 PM EST
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Ralph Auriemma is a man who is used to being on the go—spending a lifetime as a tractor-trailer driver and construction worker.

But two years ago, there was a red flag at his yearly physical.

“I used to have a trace of blood in my urine, every physical,” Ralph says. “But this time, there was more than a trace.”

Tests showed a kidney stone. A biopsy gave doctors more information.

“She says, ‘I have two things to tell you: one’s good, one’s bad,’” Ralph says. “She says, ‘you do have cancer, but it’s a non-aggressive form. And we believe that we could treat it.’”

“The tumor was about two centimeters in size,” says Ravi Munver, doctor at the Hackensack University Medical Center. “So, about the size of a quarter.”

Dr. Munver removed the cancer, which was in the lining of the kidney. But it kept coming back. That’s when Munver suggested an FDA-approved treatment called jelmyto, a combination of a chemotherapy drug called mitomycin and a chilled liquid inserted into the body through a catheter. When the liquid warms to body temperature, it hardens into a gel.

“Because it’s a gel form, it stays in the kidney for an hour or two,” Munver says. “It’ll pass naturally through the system within a couple of hours.”

Ralph had the treatment once a week for six weeks. Four months later, there was no sign of tumor regrowth.

“I’m fine,” Ralph says. “A hundred percent. A hundred percent. I do whatever I want again.”

The FDA approved jelmyto for use in 2020, but some insurance companies have only just started covering the cost. It’s for patients with non-aggressive, early-stage cancer.

A clinical trial found that 84 percent of the patients did not have their cancer return after treatment.

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