New Orleans, LA December 10, 2013 - Last time I wrote about exciting new research being done to help overcome multiple myeloma's ability to become drug resistant. I shared how researchers had discovered how adding an deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor with a proteasome inhibitor re-sensitized resistant cells, allowing proteasome inhibitors like Velcade, Kyprolis and ixazomib to work.
I went on to share how a promising new HDAC inhibitor, panobinostat, faces an uphill battle for FDA approval, because it doesn't work very well by itself. And even though it clearly enhances the effectiveness of existing myeloma drugs, the FDA likes to see single-agent activity before approving most drugs.
The first immunotherapy drug for multiple myeloma, elotuzumab, faces a similar challenge. It works well when combined with Revlimid, but not on its own. That's why doctors and researchers here are so excited about daratumumab. Unlike elotuzumab, daratumumab does seem to work by itself or in combination with other myeloma drugs.
Immunotherapies are a hot topic in cancer research. One could argue that myeloma immunotherapy research has lagged behind therapies already being used to fight breast cancer and melanoma. But drugs like daratumumab could help change all of that.
Anti-cancer vaccines are another type of immunotherapy. The ImMucin therapeutic vaccine for multiple myeloma shows exciting promise in early studies. Therapies like genetically modified T cells are also making news.
When will any of this cutting-edge research reach patients? Well daratumumab and possibly elotuzumab may only be a few years away. Since they are a new class of drug, the FDA is more likely to fast track their approval.
Myeloma vaccines, modified T cells and other space age therapies may still be a decade away. But maybe not! Research in the field is advancing at break-neck speed, aided by high powered computers and willingness of researchers to share their data. What used to take ten years now may only take five.
So stay healthy and hopeful! Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep. And a few prayers -and keeping your fingers crossed- can't hurt!
Feel good and keep smiling!