An Immune Therapy for Multiple Myeloma

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Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer that forms in white blood cells that produce antibodies. It is expected to affect about 26,000 Americans in 2015, with more than 11,000 dying of the disease.

OSUCCC – James researcher Jianhua Yu, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine and a member of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program, and multiple myeloma specialist Craig Hofmeister, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and a member of the OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Program, used a Pelotonia idea grant to help develop a new strategy  for treating the disease. “Despite current drugs and the use of bone marrow transplantation, almost all myeloma patients eventually relapse,” says Hofmeister. “Our work presents a novel strategy for treating multiple myeloma, and we hope to bring it to patients as part of a phase I clinical trial as soon as possible.”

The potential treatment involves altering cancer-killing immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells, and T lymphocytes, or T cells. The researchers modified the cells to hone in on a target molecule called CS1, which is found on nearly all myeloma cells. The modified NK and T cells successfully killed the myeloma cells in laboratory tests. When using an animal model, the modified cells were still able to kill human myeloma cells.

“Our study shows that we can modify these immune cells to target CS1, and that the modified cells efficiently destroy human myeloma cells,” Yu says. An important potential advantage to this approach, Yu notes, is that if the therapeutic T cells replicate in the body, they might also prevent the tumor from recurring for a prolonged period. The researchers published their findings in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.