Reasons for Hope
- Immunotherapy helps activate the body’s immune system and can fight cancer by targeting certain cells and molecules.
- One way in which these therapies work is by targeting specific proteins — such as CD38, BCMA, CS1, GPRC5d and FcRH5 — on myeloma cells.
- There are several ongoing clinical trials focused on new immunotherapy treatments for multiple myeloma.
Dr. Jing Ye of the University of Michigan Health, a multiple myeloma specialist, discusses exciting new research on immunotherapy in the treatment of this disease.
What is Immunotherapy for Multiple Myeloma?Read More
“I feel excited about immunotherapy because immunotherapy can offer the benefit of taking your immune system to a different level,” explains Dr. Ye. It can activate, enhance and expand the immune system to fight cancer.
How New Immunotherapy Treatment Works
One way in which these therapies work is by targeting specific proteins — such as CD38, BCMA, CS1, GPRC5d and FcRH5 — on myeloma cells. However, there are also other treatment options in the pipeline that target the entire immune system. In general, immunotherapy works with the body’s immune system in a variety of ways to combat cancer.
“We are actually in a very exciting era for all immunotherapies,” Dr. Ye says. Investigators are studying how proteins interact with each other. They’re also looking at the tumor microenvironment and how it affects myeloma cells, as well as studying different types of immune cells to see how they affect each other.
Immunotherapies Currently in Clinical Trials
There are several ongoing clinical trials focused on new immunotherapy treatments for multiple myeloma.
Some of these include:
- CAR-T cell therapy: Modifies a patient’s own T cells to target and kill diseased cells
- Bi-specific T-cell engagers (BiTEs): Engages two different T cells to target, attach, and kill diseased cells
- Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs): Antibodies direct myeloma drugs to malignant cells in order to kill them
- Multiple myeloma vaccines: Stimulates the immune response to tumor cells
CAR T-Cell Therapy Overview
CAR T-cell therapy (chimeric antigen receptor) is a promising treatment that’s driving impact in the world of myeloma treatment. This involves removing immune cells called T cells from the patient’s body, genetically modifying them to target certain surface proteins, and re-infusing them into the patient.
These modified T cells then seek and kill myeloma cells that have specific proteins on their surface. Several CAR T-cell trials are ongoing. Dr. Ye explains, “We can learn a lot of different things from the clinical trials,” and eligible patients are encouraged to take part in these important studies.
New Immunotherapy Combination Treatments
Combinations of drugs are being studied in clinical trials in order to reduce the chances that patients’ cancer will relapse after remission. Combining multiple therapies may help reduce one drug’s resistance, allowing for maximum effectiveness and delayed resistance to treatment.
Researchers believe that a combination of immunotherapy treatments may provide the best chance for long-term remission, and could possibly replace chemotherapy treatments in the future.
What the Future Holds for Immunotherapy
The future of multiple myeloma treatment is likely to include immunotherapy treatments and combinations of different types of targeted therapy drugs, such as those used in the past, and novel agents still under investigation in clinical trials. The use of these therapies will depend on how well it targets the mutated proteins on cancer cells, without harming other healthy cells.
Dr. Ye’s hope is that multiple myeloma research will continue to evolve in a way that allows patients to “achieve long-term remission” while preserving their quality of life. “I hope we can accompany all patients in their journey to live well.”