Pelotonia Idea Grants Help Personalize Therapy for Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a leukemia-like cancer of a type of immune cell that produces antibodies. The disease remains incurable, but one treatment that prolongs life for many patients uses a potent chemotherapy drug called melphalan, followed by bone-marrow transplantation. The drug kills the cancer cells but at the same time wipes out the immune system, which is restored through bone marrow transplant.

Given in high doses, the drug can stabilize the disease and prevent progression for 30 months on average. Unfortunately, this progression-free period varies greatly from person to person, ranging from six months in some and up to 12 years in a few. In addition, each patient’s body handles the drug differently, so the nature and severity of side effects is difficult to predict and avoid.

An OSUCCC – James research team consisting of Mitch Phelps, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy and member of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program, Ming Poi, PharmD, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice and Administration in the College of Pharmacy, and Craig Hofmeister, MD, associate professor clinical of Hematology and member of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program, received a Pelotonia idea grant to reduce this uncertainty by developing a method to determine the optimal dose of melphalan for individual myeloma patients.

Their method combines clinical factors such as patient weight and kidney function, with assays to estimate how living cells from patients react to a standard concentration of the drug. The objective is to identify a dose of melphalan that maximizes myeloma-cell killing while minimizing the drug’s toxic side effects for each patient.