Myeloma Monthly

Myeloma Monthly – Immune Therapy

Dr. James Berenson and the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research proudly introduces a new series of videos called “Myeloma Monthly”. These videos about Myeloma, are designed to be a helpful, informative tool for our patients and their family and friends. The videos will cover topics such as new treatments for this disease, new drug breakthroughs, questions you should ask, support for caregivers and much more.

To celebrate March as “National Myeloma Month” we are launching our first video titled “Immune Therapy” on March 1. To watch the video please click on the following link:

Immune therapy has been used for a number of years to treat a variety of cancers including breast and lymphoma. In general, the immune system is harnessed to get rid of bacteria, viruses, and toxins, as well as poisons. In our case, we want to use and harness the immune system to get rid of the myeloma.

Immune therapy can take on several forms. Most commonly, it takes on the form of using antibodies or proteins that naturally occur to get rid of the body’s toxins, bacteria, and viruses. In this case, the antibodies target proteins on the myeloma cell to harness the immune system to get rid of the myeloma.

We have two recent additions to our armamentarium to treat myeloma which are antibodies: elotuzumab and daratumumab. These have proven quite effective – not as effective alone as when combined with other treatments.

Now we have coming on board a number of more specific treatments including the use of T-cells as cellular therapy to actually harness the immune system to get rid of the myeloma. They target a protein known as BCMA. This is expressed at very high levels in myeloma and not much in other cells in the body. Thus, when the immune system is harnessed, the myeloma is eliminated without a lot of cross damage on normal cells.

In addition, besides just the antibodies themselves targeting BCMA, there are now antibodies with toxins connected that also target both the BCMA on the myeloma cell and the immune T-cells. So, we bring both the effector cells (the T-cells that are capable of killing the myeloma) to the BCMA that is on the myeloma cells together to improve their myeloma-eliminating effects.

So, now there are a variety of different techniques that are being used to treat myeloma today with the immune system and the hope is that these will be more specific and not have all the side effects of the non-specific treatments we’ve had up until now.