CAR-T Cell Therapy Sends Multiple Myeloma into Lasting Remission
In an early clinical trial, 33 out of 35 patients had clinical remission of multiple myeloma upon receiving a new type of immunotherapy — chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells targeting B-cell maturation protein or BCMA. Most patients had only mild side effects.
“Although recent advances in chemotherapy have prolonged life expectancy in multiple myeloma, this cancer remains incurable,” said study author Wanhong Zhao, MD, PhD, an associate director of hematology at The Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University in Xi’an, China. “It appears that with this immunotherapy there may be a chance for cure in multiple myeloma, but we will need to follow patients much longer to confirm that.”
Over the past few years, CAR T-cell therapy targeting a B-cell biomarker called CD19 proved very effective in initial trials for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and some types of lymphoma, but until now, there has been little success with CAR T-cell therapies targeting other biomarkers in other types of cancer. This is one of the first clinical trials of CAR T cells targeting BCMA, which was discovered to play a role in progression of multiple myeloma in 2004.
“This could be ground breaking because, as Dr. Zhao stated, multiple myeloma remains incurable, and now we may have a potential treatment that not only extends life expectancy, it may cure the disease,” said Edward A. Faber Jr., D.O., a blood and marrow transplant specialist with OHC.
“When a doctor decides to specialize in oncology, you know you’ll be helping many patients enter and extend remission. But I don’t think any of us really believe we could see a cure during our lifetime. It’s just too huge. This is huge,” Dr. Faber added.
Next, the researchers plan to enroll a total of 100 patients in this clinical trial, at four participating hospitals in China.
“In early 2018 we also plan to launch a similar clinical trial in the United States. Looking ahead, we would also like to explore whether BCMA CAR T-cell therapy benefits patients who are newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma,” said Dr. Zhao.
OHC is being considered as a site for one of the U.S. clinical trials.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, which make antibodies to fight infections. Abnormal plasma cells can crowd out or suppress the growth of other cells in the bone marrow. This suppression may result in anemia, excessive bleeding, and a decreased ability to fight infection.
Multiple myeloma is a relatively uncommon cancer. This year, an estimated 30,300 people in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and 114,2502 were diagnosed with this cancer worldwide in 2012. In the United States, only about half of patients survive five years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
The study was presented at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Read the complete article here.