Planned Study Aims for Way to Personalize Multiple Myeloma Treatment

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by Sara Guariglia |

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genetic testing

Predictive testing

A nonprofit–industry partnership, led by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences of Dublin and SkylineDx, aims to advance genetic testing to better guide doctors in making treatment choices for people with multiple myeloma, based on each patient’s likely response.

A planned study in patients, conducted with funding from Amgen, Janssen, and Celgene, will take place at the Beaumont Hospital Dublin and run through the Blood Cancer Network Ireland — a network of scientists and hematologists promoting work into blood cancers and bringing potential treatments to people through early clinical trials.

Its researchers want to combine two predictive tests, already in use for myeloma monitoring, to develop a way of better predicting which patients will respond to specific myeloma treatments.

“This collaboration … demonstrates that truly amazing work can result from large partnerships,” Fergal O’Brien, PhD, RCSI’s director of Research and Innovation, said in a press release.

“By bringing together these organizations, we are united at the forefront of research that will improve treatment options for patients with multiple myeloma in Ireland and worldwide,” O’Brien added.

Myeloma is a blood cancer that arises from a type of B-cell, called plasma cells, that produces antibodies to fight infection. The cancer develops in the bone marrow, and is characterized by the abnormal production of an antibody with no useful function.

In recent years, new myeloma treatments have become available to patients, improving their survival rates. But predictive tests that help to determine an individual’s disease course and most appropriate treatment are still lacking.

One test being used by doctors assesses a patient’s minimal residual disease (MRD) status, and works to detect trace amounts of cancer cells that remained after treatment. These cells can lead to cancer recurrence, so being MRD-negative is associated with better outcomes in the long term.

Another test, developed by SkylineDx and called MMprofiler, uses DNA from bone marrow to measure the activity of 92 cancer genes (the well-validated SKY92 gene signature), which helps researchers determine whether a patient is at high risk of relapse.

Researches at Beaumont Hospital and RCSI aim to combine the two tests in a study of whether a more in-depth analysis of genetic risk better identifies patients a high risk of relapse after certain treatments. The combined approach is expected to help lead to more personalized, and potentially more effective, treatment approaches.

Researchers will begin by enrolling a small number of patients to determine whether their molecular signature can help guide their treatment.

“If our study can definitively determine which patients will benefit from certain treatments, and when, it will provide clinicians with invaluable information that will lead to better outcomes for patients with multiple myeloma,” said Siobhan Glavey, PhD, the project’s principal investigator.

“As we move toward personalized medicine, studies like ours will hopefully become more and more common and will help to target high-cost effective therapies with greater precision,” she concluded.

RCSI Strategic Industry Partnership Seed Fund is also supporting this work.