This is the third post of a three-part blog series on immunotherapy. If you haven’t read our introductory post on immunotherapy, it can be found here.
Previously, we discussed how immunotherapy may help to boost the body’s immune response. In today’s post, we’ll examine how immunotherapy may help the immune system to identify and fight cancer cells.
Cancer cells, compared to foreign invaders, are more difficult for the immune system to identify and recognize as toxic because they originate from an individual’s own cells. Using drugs to help the immune system attack and fight cancer cells is a fairly new approach, and is based on emerging knowledge about the ways in which the immune system interacts with cancer cells.
Monoclonal antibodies work to make the cancer cells more obvious to the immune system and therefore easier to identify and attack. Monoclonal antibodies are naturally occurring in the body, but the ones used for immunotherapy are made in a laboratory. These monoclonal antibodies are manufactured to identify and attach to a specific defect or characteristic that exist only in cancer cells and are not present in healthy cells. This allows the drug to be delivered directly to the cancer cell.
In multiple myeloma, there are a few antibodies currently used in cancer that may generate an immune response. This includes daratumumab, which is an antibody that received breakthrough therapy designation for patients with multiple myeloma and elotuzumab, which is currently in Phase II and III clinical trials.
Immune check point therapies restore the T-cells’ ability to effectively detect and attack cancers cells. (Read about T-cells in our first blog post on immunotherapy). Every time the immune system is stimulated, there are checkpoints throughout the body to ensure that healthy cells are not harmed. Some cancers block these checkpoints so that the body can’t identify the cancer cells from the healthy cell. Immune check point therapies restore the body’s ability to identify cancer cells as it prevents the cancer cells from blocking the checkpoints.
Immune check point therapies have been recognized as a promising area of clinical research in multiple myeloma. There are many clinical trials currently underway in myeloma and in blood cancers.
Immunotherapies are being studied in a wide range of cancers, including melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer and multiple myeloma and early clinical data has shown promising results. Despite advancements in research and treatment, relapse is inevitable for multiple myeloma patients, and there is a true need for new approaches to treat it. Immunotherapy is a promising new area of research, especially for patients who are not eligible for a stem cell transplant, due to age or other medical restrictions.
Our research arm, the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC), is funding and researching a pipeline of the most promising therapeutics in multiple myeloma – including immunotherapies. The MMRF brings together leading academic centers with industry partners to conduct highly collaborative Phase I and II clinical trials for treatments for multiple myeloma. Recently, the first clinical trial conducted by the MMRC focused on an immune check point therapy – a type of immunotherapy – launched. We will be sharing more information about this trial in the near future.
Our hope is to eventually provide a broad range of immunotherapy trials to patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma. As we open more clinical trials in immunotherapy, we will be posting information on the MMRF’s website. To make sure that you are kept in the loop regarding new trials, check back for updates on the MMRF’s website.
If you have any questions, would like to know more about immunotherapy clinical trials, or to find out if you are eligible to participate in a trial, please call our nurse hotline at 1-866-603-6628.