Immune therapy is now showing success against cervical cancer, a type of cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). In a small trial by the National Cancer Institute, the treatment helped two out of nine women remain cancer-free for more than a year after the treatment.

This treatment has been previously used in fatal skin cancer melanoma and a rare bile duct cancer, NBC News reported. One of the patients who received the trial was Arrica Wallace. In 2011, she discovered that her cancer was widespread, despite her diligence with going to her physician and taking regular Pap smear tests. Wallace then underwent a full round of chemotherapy, and despite the aggressive treatment, doctors gave her less than one year to live.

“In all, I had 32 rounds of chemo, I had 25 days of radiation and I also had brachytherapy, internal radiation treatment before the trial treatment,” Wallace told NBC News. “My doctors … were pretty aggressive because I was young and healthy enough to handle the treatment side-effects.” Then a miracle happened.

Her doctors had found out about the treatment at the National Cancer Institute and were able to get her enrolled since her previous treatment had not shown to be successful. “Aricca had been aggressively treated with every kind of chemo that had reasonable level of activity against her cancer,” said Dr. Christian Hinrichs of the National Cancer Institute. “Her prognosis was terrible. There was no chance she would be cured, and chemo in that setting was more likely to have toxic effects rather than therapeutic. She had run out of options. Almost no one in this situation lives more than two years, and it is unlikely she would have lived more than one year.”

The doctors at the Cancer Institute wanted to try a new therapy involving immune therapy, where the body’s own fighter cells are amplified. The researchers said this type of treatment might sound easy, but it usually doesn’t work. However, they decided to go after T-cells instead.

So Hinrichs and his team decided to cut pieces of Wallace’s tumor and focus on the T-cells that were attaching the HPV-mutated cancer cells. “We’ve treated nine patients. Three patients had major shrinkage of their tumors,” Hinrichs said. One was only helped for three months, but in Wallace and another patient, the tumors appear to have vanished. These results were so astonishing, which is why the researchers decided to share the results from such a small trial.

“We were thrilled to see these patients with complete tumor regression. It is kind of a mixed set of feelings for me that while two of these patients had great responses. The treatment changed their lives. There were plenty of other women who were not helped by this treatment. We’re certainly trying to come up with better approaches.”

Hinrichs and his team are hoping this therapy can be extended to other cancers caused by HPV and other viruses.