Each year at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of research underway to bring new treatments and hopefully a cure to multiple myeloma patients. Thankfully, this year is no different; however, last night I was reminded just how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.
At the International Myeloma Foundation’s (IMF) Brian D. Novis Research Grant Reception, I had the privilege of talking briefly with Dr. Robert A. Kyle of the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Kyle has been working in the field of myeloma for over 50 years! He reminded me of how much has been accomplished in the last 50 years and that scientifically speaking, that is not that long of a period of time. He told me that in the early 1940s, it took one lab technician a full day to interpret the results of a SPEP test which is used to monitor a myeloma patient’s M-spike. I can’t even imagine that and how hard that made it to make advances in research. Thankfully, with today’s technology we are able to interpret test results quickly which has certainly facilitated the vast amount of research being done to further our understanding of myeloma and how we can fight it.
One new avenue of research that I’m particularly interested in this year is BiTE technology. BiTEs are artificial bispecific monoclonal antibodies which go after two targets – one on the T cell and one on the cancer cell. The antibody directs a patient’s T-cell in the immune system to link it to the cancer cell, killing it. Amgen is one of the companies actively researching this, and I visited their booth on the exhibit floor today. I went through several interactive exhibits to help increase my understanding of how this science works. I was able to complete the puzzle of attaching the T-cell to the cancer cell in one exhibit In another, I looked through a simulated microscope to see how the T-cells attach and attack myeloma cells.
This technology is all new and extremely fascinating to me! And, the thing I’m most encouraged about, is that this is a unique way of targeting and killing myeloma cells. It’s helpful to have enhancements or tweaks to existing science. Most myeloma patients, including me who is currently taking Pomalyst (pomalidamide) and has taken Revlimid (lenalidomide) with several treatment regimens, have benefited from the evolution of Thalidomid (thalidomide) to Revlimd to Pomalyst, but we always need new and unique mechanisms, so we can continue to outsmart myeloma that is ever adapting to the treatment attacking it. BiTES and CAR-T cell therapy are two things you are going to hear a lot about post-ASH. These are exciting times in the field of myeloma, and I don’t see any end it sight. Be sure to watch the IMF’s post-ASH live conference as Drs. Durie, Mikhael and Mateos recap the highlights from this meeting. It will air Monday, December 3rd at 11:00 p.m. ET, and the replay will also be available at www.myeloma.org.
Many thanks again to the IMF and all the sponsors that made my 6th visit to ASH a possibility!
Linda Huguelet, Chattanooga Multiple Myeloma Networking Group
Follow me on Twitter @LindaMYELOMA