New treatment gives hope to multiple myeloma cancer sufferers

A clinical trial involving Irish patients newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma has found that a new treatment option is highly effective.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells that normally produce antibodies that help fight infection.

Every year in Ireland about 250 people are diagnosed with cancer and 170 succumb to the disease.

Irish patients with multiple myeloma were the first patients worldwide to take part in the drug trial to develop a more effective treatment for this cancer.

Blood Cancer Network Ireland, led by Professor Michael O'Dwyer in NUI Galway, found that adding a treatment to standard care chemotherapy is beneficial for treating newly diagnosed patients.

It involved adding Daratumumab (DARA) to standard care chemotherapy containing the drugs Cyclophosphamide and Bortezomib (CyBorD).

The study, published in the scientific journal, Blood Advances, showed that the addition of DARA to CyBorD is very beneficial and well tolerated by patients.

DARA, an antibody treatment, by itself is a very promising new therapy for this particular cancer and has been approved for treating relapsed patients.

Trial results showed that 17 of the 18 patients achieved a very good response to the therapy and more than half achieved an excellent response, with no evidence of minimal residual disease using sensitive genetic testing.

The investigators also went on to show that the reason for the excellent results is that combining the two treatments activates the immune system, increasing its ability to kill the cancer cells.

The success of this early phase-one trial that began almost three years ago, and is ongoing, suggests that the combination of drugs should be further evaluated for the treatment of patients who are newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Director of BCNI and professor of Haematology at NUI Galway, Prof. Michael O'Dwyer, said the positive results justify the faith and investment placed in BCNI investigators by Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society and the critical funding and support provided by the pharmaceutical company, Janssen.

“This trial exemplifies the importance of good bench-to-bedside research and shows that high quality clinical and translational research can be conducted in Ireland with the provision of adequate funding.”

Prof. O'Dwyer said a soon-to-be-launched European trial, that would include Irish patients, hopes to confirm the superiority of the new treatment over the current standard treatment.

“The European trial will last several years but it is anticipated that within two to three years we will have results that will confirm what we have seen,” he said.

Prof. O'Dwyer said the Irish trial is the first homegrown (investigator-initiated) trial to be conducted by BCNI.

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