Immunotherapy Is The Future Of Cancer Research: 70% Of Multiple Myeloma Patients Find Recovery With New Treatment

By Dana Dovey | Medical Daily

cancer cellImmunotherapy, or the use of a person’s own immune system to treat an infection or disease, has recently been at the forefront of cancer research. In a new study, researchers found that a form of immunotherapy could produce a “significant clinical response” in 70 percent of patients with a particularly deadly type of cancer known as multiple myeloma. These results not only highlight the potential of this exciting new field but also the importance of further immunotherapy research.

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The study, published online in Nature Medicine, was conducted by researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Twenty patients with an advanced form of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, underwent a stem cell transplantation of their own stem cells before being injected with around 2.4 billion genetically altered immune system T cells.

Healthy immune systems work by detecting antigens, the byproducts of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Once these antigens are detected, the immune system produces antibodies to fight off and destroy the disease. Unfortunately, cancer has a way of evading the immune system. But with this form of immunotherapy, the researchers were able to use the genetically altered T cells to spot cancer and avoid evasion.

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For the study, the patient’s T cells were genetically engineered to contain a receptor for a tumor antigen known as cancer-testis antigen (CT antigen), two of which are present in about 60 percent of patients with advanced myeloma. With the CT antigen receptor, the T cells were equipped to spot the myeloma and subsequently employ the immune system to find and destroy it. The results showed that 14 out of 20 patients (about 70 percent) had a near-complete or complete response three months after treatment; median progression-free survival was 91.1 months, while the overall survival lasted 32.1 months.

Although the study was small, the results are significant, study author Dr. Aaron P. Rapoport said in a press release. “The majority of patients who participated in this trial had a meaningful degree of clinical benefit. Even patients who later relapsed after achieving a complete response to treatment or didn’t have a complete response had periods of disease control that I believe they would not have otherwise experienced. Some patients are still in remission after nearly three years.”

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