Jimmy Carter: No more cancer treatment needed now

President Jimmy Carter talks to the overflow crowd at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains on Sunday morning Aug. 23, 2015, before teaching Sunday school.

President Jimmy Carter talks to the overflow crowd at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains on Sunday morning Aug. 23, 2015, before teaching Sunday school.

Jimmy Carter continues to gain the upper hand in his battle against cancer.

On Sunday, the former president said his doctors had told him he does not need to have any more treatments.

Carter made the announcement at the beginning of his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains. According to people there, he said his doctors at Emory Winship Cancer Institute gave him the good news after an MRI last week.

“He said the doctors determined that he would not need any more treatment now,” said Mandy Flynn, one of Carter’s nieces, who was in the class. “He said he will continue to get scans and MRI’s and if the time comes that they need to start (treatment) back up, they will.”

The Carter Center later confirmed this latest bit of good news for the 91-year-old former Nobel Peace Prize winner whose continued grace and good humor in the face of a devastating illness has won him legions of new admirers.

“President Carter said he did not need any more treatments, which he had August 2015 through February 2016, but will continue scans and resume treatment if necessary,” Carter Center director of communications Deanna Congileo wrote in an email. That means he will no longer be receiving regular treatments of an immunotherapy drug that “rallies” the body’s own immune system to fight against the cancer.

Carter said in August that doctors had found four small melanoma lesions on his brain. The discovery followed the removal of a lesion on his liver that took about ten percent of the organ. He said he would receive four drug treatments, along with radiation therapy, and that he would cut back significantly on his schedule.

This was the second time in recent months that the former president had used his Sunday school class to deliver some personal good news. Back in December he told the packed church that signs of his cancer were gone. He further explained in a statement that his most recent MRI brain scan had not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots or any new ones, but that he would continue with his treatment. He said then that he would continue to receive regular treatments of the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab every three weeks.

The church burst into spontaneous applause at the time. Meanwhile, Carter's battle against cancer continued to win him admirers around the world, including, most recently in Britain's esteemed House of Lords. Invited to address members of Parliament and other notables last month about the Carter Center's nearly completed effort to wipe out the dread guinea worm from the face of the earth, Carter grinned and said he hoped to outlive that parasitic foe.

The laughter from the assembled lords and ladies turned to cheers when Carter added, “My doctors tell me, by the way, that the treatment I’m getting is making the cancer disappear in my liver and my brain.”

Maranatha Baptist may be less ornate than Parliament, but the reaction to Carter’s news this Sunday was no less joyful, according to one of the many out-of-town visitors who regularly make the trek to Plains when Carter is teaching.

“Everybody was very happy and grateful to hear it,” said Robert Johnson, who was making his first visit to Carter’s class from Alaska. “And then he went into the lesson for today, which was humility. He did a really good job on that.”