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What Is the Status of Immunotherapy As a Treatment for Myeloma?

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Published on July 5, 2016

Immunotherapy is a groundbreaking therapy for solid tumors. Where are we with using immunotherapy to treat multiple myeloma? Dr. Jatin Shah of MD Anderson Cancer Center responds with cutting edge information about the current state of immunotherapy. Listen as Dr. Shah discusses exciting news on checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cell data for patients living with multiple myeloma.

Clinical Trials Mentioned in This Video

Checkpoint Inhibitor Clinical Trials
Immunotherapy Clinical Trials
T Cells Clinical Trials

This Ask the Expert series is sponsored by the Patient Empowerment Network, which received funding from Celgene, Novartis and Takeda.

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Transcript | What Is the Status of Immunotherapy As a Treatment for Myeloma?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

Here’s a question we got in from Jamie. Jamie writes in, “We’ve been hearing a lot about immunotherapy in the news; it’s kind of all over the place. It’s cutting edge in different cancer like lung cancer, etc. So where are we with using immunotherapy as a means to treat myeloma?”

Dr. Shah:               

Fantastic question. I think that there’s a tremendous amount of excitement and interest around this whole world of immunotherapy and using the immune system to target cancer cells. It really starts with many of these drugs called checkpoint inhibitors that we’ve used in small cell lung cancer—sorry—used in lung cancer as well as in melanoma. And what essentially these class of drugs do is turn or activate the T cell. And by activating or turning on the T cell, then these T cells then will target the cancer cells.

So immunotherapy is not chemotherapy. They don’t target the cancer cells directly. They really just target the immune system, which is not working as well. And so by activating the immune system, and that, in turn, just like your immune system will kill bacteria and virus and anything else that’s foreign to you, it’s going to kill these cancer cells by recognizing that that is not a normal part of you. And so that’s just one component of immunotherapy.

And they have some very nice data now over the last several years in solid tumors, things like lung cancer and skin cancers. Now, it’s really making a rapid progress in myeloma. We saw some very nice data at ASH when we combined checkpoint inhibitors, specifically pembrolizumab (Keytruda), in combination with both lenalidomide (Revlimid) and pomalidomide (Pomalyst) showing some very exciting data. So theseare very rapidly moving forward. That’s really a very rapidly developing field.

But beyond those classes of drugs, there’s a whole host of other immunotherapy targets that we have that we’re using to turn on the immune system. There’s lots of exciting data around CAR-T cells. And so there is some very nice data with CAR-T cells in lymphomas, in leukemias that show some very promising data. And so we’re starting to look at CAR-T cells now in myeloma, as well. There’s some very nice work done by the NCI looking at CAR-T cells that target BCMA, which is an antigen or a protein that’s on the surface of these myeloma cells and showed some very interesting data at ASH and some verynice activity.

So there’s going to be CAR-T cell programs and research going on around the country and worldwide. So I think that’s another part of immunotherapy that’s rapidly progressing, as well. There [are] vaccines that are being developed, as well. Again, which will train the immune system to kill the cancer cells. There [are] a number of other monoclonal antibodies, as well, again targeting or using the immune system to kill the cancer cells. 

And when we talk about immunotherapy, there [are] really multiple different ways that we use the immune system, and I think it’s a rapidly developing field at this point in time.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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