Hope and Progress in Myeloma: An Expert Perspective

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Topics include: Treatments and Understanding

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff 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:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power. I’m Andrew Schorr. One of the leaders in the field and working on some of the very early developments of new medicines is Dr. Faith Davies who is from the University of Arkansas. She joins us now to help us better understand the new developments in myeloma and new classifications and what it means for patients.

Dr. Davies: 

Yes.  So the IMWG have recently produced some new guidelines particularly concentrating on those patients that we call smoldering myeloma patients.  So those are the patients that have evidence of myeloma but don't have any symptoms yet, so they don't have any problems with their bones. They don't have a problem with high calcium or their kidneys.  And what recent studies have shown is that a portion of these patients can quite quickly go on to develop clinical symptoms. 

And so the IMWG are producing guidelines helping doctors to identify those patients but also suggesting that those—some of those patients should actually be treated before they develop symptoms, the idea being that if you can catch the disease early that you can maybe stop patients from having symptoms and can actually make a bigger impact on those patients for their treatment. 

Andrew Schorr:

Okay. Let’s talk about medicines in development now. There are many being worked, and you’re helping study them for multiple myeloma. What are you excited about?

Dr. Davies:

I think it's really exciting times at the moment.  There are a number of different groups of drugs that are coming through.  There [are] drugs that we could potentially call me-toos, so those are the drugs that where we already have a drug, so, for instance, the proteasome inhibitors such as bortezomib (Velcade), but there [are] some newer drugs coming through that may actually be more effective or may have a better safety profile or may be given in a slightly different way—so like as a pill rather than an injection—and so they're potentially going to be revolutionizing the way that patients have their drugs administered. 

But I think there [are] also a number of brand-new classes of drugs that kill myeloma in a completely different way, and the ones which I'm most excited about are the antibodies.  So in a different kind of blood cancer, lymphoma, the doctors there and the patients there have had an antibody for a number of years called rituximab (Rituxan), and that's made a massive difference.  And it now appears that we may have a few candidates that might be the myeloma equivalent of rituximab, and those are—they have a number of names, but there's one called elotuzumab, and there [are] also ones which target a molecule called anti-CD38, and I think that they could potentially make a massive difference. 

Andrew Schorr: 

Why are you hopeful for myeloma patients and their future?

Dr. Davies: 

I think for two reasons.  I think we—over the last few years we've learned a lot about what makes a myeloma cell go awry and go wrong, and we've now discovered that myeloma isn't just one disease.  It's actually a collection of diseases.  And we've always known that from looking at patients because we know that some patients do relatively well, and other patients have a hard time. But in the lab now we can actually tell some of the differences between the different myeloma cells and why things are going wrong.  And what that means is that we can actually try and design our therapies to actually target some of those processes that are going wrong. 

So I think there's the lab side of things, but also we've now got a whole group of new drugs that are offering those new opportunities and new changes to the way we treat treat—treat myeloma.  I guess one of the things that we need to do over the coming years is try and figure out how best to use these new drugs so that we can really make a difference.  

Andrew Schorr: 

Dr. Faith Davies from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, thanks for being with us on Patient Power and for all you do for patients.

Dr. Davies:

Thank you. 

Andrew Schorr: 

I’m Andrew Schorr. Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff 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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Page last updated on January 28, 2015