Multiple Myeloma Research Saves Lives

Cynthia Chmielewski |

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the International Myeloma Foundation’s 2019 Brian D. Novis Research Grant Award Reception. I was very tired and would have loved to go back to my room to sleep, but I knew I had to go because I was presenting two Junior Research Grants on behalf of the Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Networking Group (PMMNG) at the reception. A Junior Research Grant is valued at $50,000 dollars.

Cindy Chmielewski speaking 2018 Brian D. Novis Research Grant Awards reception.

Cindy Chmielewski speaks at the IMF’s 2018 Brian D. Novis Research Grant Awards reception.

The minute I walked into the venue I felt excitement in the air. The early career researchers who were chosen to receive grants were enthusiastically chatting with their peers.The excitement was contagious and invigorating. Although I was still exhausted from an action packed day that started at 6:45 a.m., I no longer wanted to be in my PJ’s back at my hotel.

Jennifer Scarne, Susie Durie, Robert A. Kyle and Dr.

From Left: Jennifer Scarne, Susie Durie, Dr. Robert A. Kyle, Cindy Chmielewski, and Dr. Maes

Dr. Maes from Brussels, Belgium, (the other recipient of a Brian D. Novis Junior Research Grant, funded by the Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Networking Group) was equally as excited and appreciative. Dr. Maes work involves unraveling the balance of tolerance and immunogenicity of multiple myeloma. Here is the layperson’s abstract of Dr. Maes’ research. Cancer cells are known for their ability to evade the immune system. Important in this process is the ability of cancer cells to prevent the activation of the immune system which has been insufficiently studied in multiple myeloma. In this project, we will investigate how multiple myeloma cells prevent the stimulation of two important immune cell types that should ‘eat’ myeloma cells or part of myeloma cells in order to stimulate the immune system. The obtained results should be helpful to develop new treatments to stimulate these immune cells and improve well-being of patients.

Fortunately, I was able to talk to the young researchers receiving awards from the Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Networking Group (PMMNG). Dr. Erico Milan from Milan, Italy, (not joking) is doing research on manipulating endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis and secretory capacity against systemic AL Amyloidosis.

Here is the layperson’s description of his work. Systemic light chain (AL) amyloidosis is a life-threatening plasma cell (PC) disease caused by clonal production of an aggregation-prone immunoglobulin light chain, which deposits in tissues resulting in fatal organ dysfunction. Antibody production results in abundant mis-folded byproducts, causing a critical dependence of normal and pathological PCs on pathways that maintain protein homeostasis. This addiction has relevant therapeutic implications: indeed, proteasome inhibitors have showed extraordinary efficacy against AL and the PC malignancy, multiple myeloma. Dissecting how PCs regulate the secretory capacity, in efficient coordination with protein degradative pathways, may be fundamental to disclose new therapeutic targets against AL. Dr. Milan was bubbling with enthusiasm and pride when speaking with me about his research and extremely gracious to receive the award.

I was honored to present these awards and grateful that these bright young doctors chose myeloma as a career path. It is important to be able to fund early career researchers to keep these researchers engaged and in a field where funding is scarce. The PMMNG has held a 5K race for 10 years that is called Miles for Myeloma. As a group of dedicated multiple myeloma patients and care partners, we have been able to fund 11 Brian D. Novis Research Grants.

Not everyone has the capability to host a 5K, but everyone in some way can help sponsor a research grant. A collective effort also sponsors research. Host a grassroots event. Hold a bake sale, flea market or any event that may spark your interest. Suzanne at the IMF will be more than happy to assist with the planning. Funding is necessary for research to occur. Research saves lives.

Fundraising is one way to be an advocate and pay it forward. Although fundraising is not easy, it is empowering to be part of the potential cure. You become a valued partner in research. I am glad I attended the Brian D. Novis Research Grants Reception, but it was also nice to hit the hay before midnight.

by Cindy Chmielewski

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