Let’s take a break from all of the Revlimid/secondary cancer risk news, shall we?
Read part of this email I recently recieved from a fellow multiple myeloma patient:
“Although I am immensely grateful for the number of pharmaceutical options
available to keep me alive and “functional” while in remission,
I wish remission meant— cure…”
I have a feeling this patient’s sentiment is shared by all of us. Maintenance therapy, autologous stem cell transplants, new novel therapy agent combo’s and new novel therapy agents like carfilzomib and pomalidomide. None offer real hope for a cure.
So what about that? Is anyone actively searching for a cure?
One small research group is. The Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research in Los Angeles, California has made curing multiple myeloma its primary objective.
The group is headed up by well known myeloma expert Dr. James Berenson. I met Dr. Berenson while shooting a webinar in LA late last year. He was kind enough to show me around his group’s research center.
There I met Dr. Chen–a personable and energetic researcher. I was impressed with both Dr. Berenson and Dr. Chen.
I don’t know much about their research, other than the fact they emphasize a search for a cure. So I contacted Cheryl Cross, who is the group’s Director of New Research Development. Cheryl was kind enough to forward questions I had for doctors Berenson and Chen. Here is their explanation for how the “Cure Myeloma Project” works:
CEO, Medical and Scientific Director for IMBCRR, James Berenson, MD states, “The Cure Myeloma Project is a multi-year initiative and currently, it is in the very early stages of development. Initiated in 2008, The Cure Myeloma Project was designed to target myeloma cells while leaving other, healthy cells in the body alone. This project is an expensive and time-consuming one and we are reliant on funding to reach each new stage of the plan. This project has the potential to give patients what they really want- therapy that eliminates the myeloma without harming the rest of the patient.” Haiming Chen, MD., PhD is IMBCR’s Laboratory Director will go into more detail.
Dr. Chen continues, “Because current chemotherapeutic drugs for multiple myeloma (MM) treatment show very little ability to distinguish MM cells from normal cells, we created a strategy in The Cure Myeloma Project which allows concentrations of active drugs to be only released in the myeloma cells but not other non-tumor cells. This means getting the active drugs within the MM tumor cells without affecting nonmalignant or “healthy” cells.”
“MM is a form of cancer that comes from a type of white cell called a plasma cell that makes lots of a type of protein called an antibody. All of the myeloma cells make the same antibody which results from movement of genetic material that is made into many copies. This unique, rearranged genetic sequence is abundant in only the myeloma cells. These tumor specific transcripts are abundant in all of the malignant cells in MM. Thus, the strategy of the cure myeloma project is to determine this unique sequence for each patient’s myeloma and use this myeloma specific transcript. Next, a copy of the sequence is made that will only bind this patient’s myeloma-specific sequence, which is attached to a drug that only is release when this sequence binds to the myeloma-specific genetic material. We have already demonstrated that we can make these myeloma specific sequences and that they can specifically bind to their intended MM patient-specific genetic sequence. We have also been able to generate these targeted sequences with a drug attached that is released upon binding only in the MM cells that show this genetic sequence. This approach will truly result in targeted therapy for MM patients.”
Dr. Berenson concludes, “We are currently evaluating a number of different drugs to eventually find the drug with the best ability to accomplish the goal of killing the myeloma. We are also trying to accomplish the best way to delivery this targeted genetic treatment into the cells. These are all very exciting developments in what we believe to be a project that can change the therapy of myeloma.
While it can be quite frustrating for patients with myeloma, please let them know that all new drugs whether it be for myeloma or other forms of cancer take many years to develop. At IMBCR, we have and will continue to work with all of the existing and new myeloma compounds. New combinations of these drugs are being created daily in our laboratory that have and will continue to lead to new treatments for patients with multiple myeloma.
While we have accomplished much in the Institute during the past 6 years, this work is pre-clinical (meaning not in patients) work. While the Cure Myeloma Project has not yet developed any unique compounds that patients can actually take for treatment, we are confident that the findings from The Cure Myeloma Project will have great impact on myeloma. It is with that hope that we continue our research.”
Interesting. Sounds like this group is trying to develop a myeloma specific drug delivery system to help current or future anti-meyloma compounds work more effectively.
This makes a lot of sense to me. I have shared with you several times my belief that the cure for multiple myeloma is already “out there,” sitting on some researcher’s desk. Maybe a better delivery system could make all the difference? Keep up the great work, doctors!
You can learn more by going to the group’s Website: http://www.imbcr.org/. Or contact Dr. Berenson, Dr. Chen or Cheryl Cross by phone or e-mail:
Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research
866-900-1035 toll free
I wish them luck–for all of our sakes!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat