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Interview with Dr. Noopur Raje: new antibody therapy, tabalumab

Home/News, Research/Interview with Dr. Noopur Raje: new antibody therapy, tabalumab

Interview with Dr. Noopur Raje: new antibody therapy, tabalumab

A few days ago I suggested you stay tuned for news about a completely different type of therapy that focuses on a neglected 6th pathway as another way to destroy myeloma cells.

I admit that the biology of myeloma cells isn’t my strong suit.  But the way I understand it, myeloma researchers believe that there are six different pathways into a myeloma cell.  I’m not going to write about something that I don’t understand.  So I’ll focus on the new therapy.

I had never even heard of tabulamab until ASH.  Dr. Noopur Raje, a researcher and clinician at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, presented results from a Phase I study of tabalumab, a human anti-BAFF antibody,Velcade and dex in patients with previously treated multiple myeloma.

Tabalumab is a human IgG4Kappamonoclonal antibody that neutralizes membrane-bound and soluble BAFF.  That’s a mouthful!

Preclinical studies have indicated that tabalumab is effective against myeloma and also helps prevent bone destruction.

Not much response to measure in the Phase I study.  But patients are currently being enrolled in a Phase II and III study, so this approach must hold some promise.

Ages of patients ranged from 41 to 84 years old.  75% had received Velcade and 100% had been on Velcade and/or Revlimid.

Tabalumab seemed to be fairly well tolerated.  Same as you would find in patients using Velcade/dex alone.  Do you remember your acronyms?  Two patients achieved CR (complete response or remission), four VGPR (very good partial response, the next, best thing), sixteen PR (partial response, better than nothing), twenty one  SD (stable disease, meaning they didn’t get any worse) and three continued to progress.

The question is:  Does adding tabalumab enhance Velcade in this combination?

Under normal circumstances, I would have moved-on to the next oral presentation without giving tabalumab another thought.  Let’s face it, the numbers so far are unremarkable.  But I had worked with Dr. Raje in the past doing some press work in Boston.  I was impressed by how patient-centered she seemed, and by the fact that she splits her time between seeing patients and doing research.  I like that.

So I decided to stick-around to get her point of view.  Dr. Raje had a prior commitment, but she still took the time to speak with me after her presentation.  Of course the first thing she did was ask how I was doing.  I then asked her if she was excited about tabalumab.  “Yes!  I’m very excited.” Dr. Raje continued, “I’m excited about the biology of the drug.  It is the only way researchers have been able to attack myeloma in this way.  The numbers will improve as our Phase II study gets going.”

The drug is being produced by Ili Lilly.  I was surprised to learn that I am a candidate to participate in this study.   You can find details here:

http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01602224

I would consider it–if I was convinced that this is a truly effective and innovative way to attack myeloma.  And honestly, I’m not.  My biggest reservation: that I end-up on the control side of the study.  I would still be receiving Velcade/dex, but no tabalumab.

Tomorrow I want to share an inspirational story about my former multiple myeloma support group’s 100th meeting celebration back in Stillwater, Minnesota–then back to the technical stuff.

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat