Dana-Farber, Quest Diagnostics Studying COVID-19 Prevalence in Myeloma

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Quest Diagnostics, the laboratory testing company, are conducting a study to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 among individuals with or at risk of developing multiple myeloma.

The aim of the Immune Profiling with Antibody-based COVID-19 Testing study, or IMPACT, is to understand what happens to the immune system during a COVID-19 infection in people with multiple myeloma or myeloma precursor conditions.

Precursor conditions include MGUS, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, and smoldering multiple myeloma, an asymptomatic plasma cell disorder. People with these conditions might be more susceptible to complications occurring after exposure to the virus or during recovery from the disease, the researchers suspect.

“This study is critical to arm medical professionals with important information and guidance on how to proceed when treating patients with MGUS and smoldering multiple myeloma during the pandemic,” Irene Ghobrial, MD, a senior physician at Dana-Farber, said in a press release.

Up to 1,000 participants can enroll in the IMPACT study through the ongoing PROMISE and PCROWD studies.

The PROMISE study is recruiting Blacks or African Americans between the ages of 40 and 75, along with close family members — in the same 40-75 age range — of anyone with multiple myeloma or a precursor condition. People ages 18 and older who have been diagnosed with MGUS, smoldering multiple myeloma, or Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia are eligible for the PCROWD study.

More information and a free screening can be obtained through www.theimpactstudy.org or by calling 617-582-8544.

The IMPACT study will follow participants over the course of one year. Once enrolled, Quest Diagnostics will administer a SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the COVID-19 infection) antibody test at no cost. A positive test result — finding the presence of antibodies to the virus — indicates that a person has been exposed to the virus and may have developed at least some immunity to it.

Those with positive tests will be asked to provide blood samples every three months throughout the study period.

“We look at antibody levels and changes in immune cells over one year of follow up, while also examining risk factors such as race, obesity, age, and stem cell mutations to rapidly inform the community on risk factors of worse outcome to COVID-19 infection and response to therapy, including vaccination,” Ghobrial said.

The study consists broadly of four goals. The first is to understand how the virus will affect individuals with multiple myeloma and its precursors, and whether the study population gets infected at higher rates. Second, investigators will ascertain how severe the patients’ prognoses are. They will compare the long-term immune responses of people with precursor conditions to those of healthy individuals. Finally, the study will assess patients’ long-term responses to vaccination.

Although not a common cancer, multiple myeloma is the second most-frequently diagnosed blood cancer in the United States. However, little is known regarding how SARS-CoV-2 influences the risk of it developing, or the severity of the illness should it occur. Further, no test currently predicts how those with MGUS and smoldering myeloma will respond to COVID-19 or to a vaccine.