While not yet approved by the FDA, clinical trials testing CAR T-cell therapy have “better numbers than we’ve seen ever in the history of multiple myeloma,” says Dr. Robert Orlowski, chair of the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
With the “living drug” treatment CAR T-cell therapy already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for certain non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, doctors are now looking at its tremendous promise for multiple myeloma.Read More
What Exactly Is CAR T-Cell Therapy?CAR T-cell therapy is a one-time treatment that is both a drug and procedure. A patient’s immune system’s T cells are extracted from their body, genetically modified in a lab to identify and attack cancer cells, and then put back into the body to do their work. For multiple myeloma, CAR T-cell therapy most commonly targets the “B-cell maturation antigen,” or “BCMA.”
“One of the nice advantages is that, so far, CAR T is a one-and-done therapy,” Dr. Orlowski explains. “When the CAR Ts are reinfused, you don’t have any additional chemotherapy afterward … and many of these patients who were quite sick at the beginning feel better after this than after any prior therapy they’ve had.”
Plus, he says, their quality of life after CAR T-cell therapy, “if people have a great response, is much better, it seems, than with standard chemotherapies.”
The Clinical Trials
While it takes time to carefully execute the clinical trials, Dr. Orlowski shares that the results so far have been extremely positive. Researchers have learned that BCMA is “a really good target” because it’s expressed only on myeloma cells and normal plasma cells, meaning the CAR T-cells genetically engineered to attack it will not attack other tissues in the body.