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‘Exciting’ but Early Results in Trial of Immunotherapy for Myeloma

By December 6, 2018No Comments

The 11 patients had already received treatment after treatment for their cancers, some as many as 20 different courses of therapy. Yet their myelomas, almost all classified by doctors as “high risk,” kept coming back. Their options faded away.

Then they joined a clinical trial to be the first people ever to receive a new experimental, immune-harnessing therapy, whose design includes features based on pioneering research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For several of them, this was the only trial in the world of this type of therapy for which they were eligible.

The industry-funded study was designed to find a safe dose of the experimental immunotherapy, not test its effectiveness. So these first participants got just a low dose, lower than previous studies had suggested could have much of an effect on this blood cancer.

That’s why the researchers were so encouraged when the cancerous cells vanished from every patient’s bone marrow within a month.

Trial leader Dr. Damian Green of Fred Hutch reported initial results from these first patients today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, which runs through Tuesday in San Diego. The findings after an average of about five months of follow-up have him feeling “very optimistic” about the potential for this strategy.

“I think it was as good as we could have hoped for and maybe better,” said Green, a myeloma specialist. He cautioned that researchers need to study trial participants for years to draw conclusions about how well the experimental therapy will help patients in the long run.

And, he added, these “very dramatic” results don’t mean the patients are cured. In fact, the cancers of two patients on the trial came back, one to six months after they had disappeared.