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12 June 2017


An immunotherapy for multiple myeloma has shown promise in an early clinical trial, researchers have reported.

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy is a new type of immunotherapy that targets B-cell maturation protein, which is implicated in multiple myeloma as well as leukaemia and lymphomas.

Dr Wanhong Zhao of Xi'an Jiaotong University, China, and colleagues carried out an early clinical trial of 35 multiple myeloma patients. Following treatment 94% of the participants showed clinical remission. The researchers add that most patients had only mild side effects.

The treatment involved each patient's own T cells being collected, genetically reprogrammed in a lab, and injected back into the patient. During the reprogramming, an artificially designed gene is inserted into the T-cell genome, which helps the genetically reprogrammed to guide the cells towards cancer cells that they then destroy.

The process is similar to the therapy targeting a B-cell biomarker called CD19 for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

In this trial, the patients all had relapsed or treatment-resistant (refractory) multiple myeloma. They received three split doses of cells, injected over a week. Beneficial effects were seen from as early as day ten of treatment.

One potentially dangerous side effect of this therapy is cytokine release syndrome. While it occurred in 85% of patients, the researchers say it was only transient.

Full results were presented recently at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Dr Zhao says: 'Although recent advances in chemotherapy have prolonged life expectancy in multiple myeloma, this cancer remains incurable. It appears that with this novel immunotherapy there may be a chance for cure in multiple myeloma, but we will need to follow patients much longer to confirm that.'


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