Multiple myeloma cells
Feb 27 2017 Posted: 09:45 GMT

Irish cancer patients with multiple myeloma are the first in the world to be treated with a new potentially life-saving drug combination

Irish patients with the blood cancer ‘multiple myeloma’ are the first patients worldwide to take part in a new drug trial to develop more effective treatment for the cancer.

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer arising from a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells normally produce antibodies which help fight infection. In multiple myeloma the plasma cells become cancerous and are called myeloma cells. These can produce an excess of a single antibody which is harmful and stops the blood from working properly. Each year in Ireland approximately 250 people are diagnosed with the cancer and 170 succumb to the disease.

This innovative Phase 1 clinical trial being led by researchers at NUI Galway will investigate for the first time, whether the addition of a new multiple myeloma treatment, Daratumumab (DARA), to a standard care chemotherapy containing the drugs Cyclophosphamide and Bortezomib (CyBorD), is beneficial for treating newly diagnosed patients. DARA by itself is a very promising new therapy for this particular cancer and has recently been approved for treating relapsed patients. This new trial is the first study worldwide to combine DARA with Cyclophosphamide and will determine whether this combination results in a more effective treatment.

Blood Cancer Network Ireland (BCNI) has already recruited the first six patients at University Hospital Galway and Cork University Hospital and the study will soon be extended to BCNI centres in Dublin, thereby giving multiple myeloma patients nationwide access to the trial. BCNI is a €2.7 million cancer research and clinical trials initiative funded by the Irish Cancer Society and Science Foundation Ireland which brings together clinicians, scientists, and population health experts across Galway, Cork and Dublin with a shared interest in blood cancer research.

Notably this clinical trial is the first homegrown (investigator initiated) trial to be conducted by BCNI. It is the culmination of collaborative research efforts between BCNI scientists and Janssen pharmaceuticals which show that Cyclophosphamide treatment can potentially make DARA more effective. It represents a bench-to-bedside approach where scientific insights from the laboratory are applied to developing new and improved ways to treat patients.

This is the first cancer clinical trial to be sponsored by NUI Galway on behalf of Blood Cancer Network Ireland and it demonstrates the University’s commitment to supporting clinical cancer research. Irish patients on this trial will receive additional benefits, including state of the art monitoring and access to this new treatment free of charge.

Commenting on the new trial, Professor Michael O’Dwyer, BCNI Director, lead investigator and Consultant Haematologist at NUI Galway, said: “It is an exciting time for blood cancer research in Ireland. This new trial, a first for BCNI, is another step forward in developing new treatment options for patients living with multiple myeloma. The study is the result of collaborations across a broad range of partners including NUI Galway, Cancer Trials Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, Science Foundation Ireland, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the Health Research Board and BCNI investigators and staff. The successful launch of the study is a testament to our shared commitment to finding better treatment options for patients through clinical trials.”

Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O’Connor, welcomed this new Phase 1 clinical trial and praised the work of researchers linked to Blood Cancer Network Ireland: “This latest clinical trial highlights the importance of investing in world class innovative and potentially life-changing Irish cancer research and we hope that the patients taking part will help identify even more improvements in care and outcomes for this disease. The Irish Cancer Society is proud to be partnering with Science Foundation Ireland on the funding of BCNI, ensuring that Irish blood cancer patients benefit from the latest advances in cancer care and treatment. Ireland has many world class cancer researchers but it’s only through the public’s generous donations that we can continue to invest in such vital cancer research. For that, we thank the public, and hope that they can continue to support us this Daffodil Day, March 24.”

The past two decades have seen major advances in the treatment of multiple myeloma with approval of several new treatments resulting in a doubling in survival over this period.  Carefully conducted clinical trials based on bench-to-bedside research have been critical for these developments. This trial exemplifies this approach and is an important contribution by Irish researchers and patients to the global fight against multiple myeloma.

For more information on the study please visit www.bloodcancers.ie or www.clinicaltrials.gov (search: NCT02955810). If you would like to refer a patient or have any queries please contact Amanda Bray, the National Research Coordinator for BCNI by email at amanda.bray@nuigalway.ie or contact BCNI@nuigalway.ie

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