New research seeks to rapidly diagnose patients and develop new treatments.
Multiple myeloma patients are set to benefit from promising new research at Flinders University which seeks to rapidly diagnose patients with the poorest prognosis and fast-track treatments for this vulnerable group.
Together with co-investigators Professors Claudine Bonder and Stuart Pitson from UniSA, Dr Craig Wallington-Beddoe* (pictured) recently discovered that a novel cell service protein is overexpressed in 20-30 per cent of multiple myeloma patients, with this group three times more likely to die within six years of diagnosis.
Dr Wallington-Beddoe and his co-investigators have been awarded a research grant co-funded by The Hospital Research Foundation and Flinders Foundation to progress this discovery, aiming to develop a way to quickly identify (within 24 hours) newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma patients who express this protein so they can be given the most appropriate and currently available therapies right away, whilst also searching for new treatments.
Dr Wallington-Beddoe said the focus was now firmly on improving the prognosis for these high-risk patients by developing an antibody therapy to help manipulate the immune system to attack the cancer cells that express the protein.
“Multiple myeloma is a really hard cancer to treat at the best of times, even today it’s deemed incurable,” Dr Wallington-Beddoe said.
“So, knowing about this protein and eventually having novel therapies to target it – it’s going to be a completely new playing field.”
The current genetic testing of bone marrow from multiple myeloma patients to inform outlook and best treatment can take a week from diagnosis, delaying therapy in patients who can least afford to wait.
Along with a quicker identification of this novel protein, Dr Wallington-Beddoe hopes early stage clinical trials on new therapies targeting this protein could be a reality at Flinders within five years.
“This is a big step in the right direction as the protein opens up a whole new therapeutic approach to patient specific medicine,” he says.
“And it’s such an area of need to have better therapies to treat myeloma patients that not only kill the cancer cells effectively but also minimise harmful side effects of the therapies themselves.
“My patients often ask me when we’re going to cure multiple myeloma. We’re certainly not there yet, but the approaches we are using are improving the outcomes of patients year by year.
“There’s immense hope that we can push it back more and more so that while we might not necessarily ‘beat’ it right way, we’ll push it back enough so that people can live longer and more productive lives ‘with’ it.”
*Dr Wallington-Beddoe is Head of Myeloma and Amyloidosis Services and Director of Haematology Clinical Trials at Flinders Medical Centre. He also heads the Flinders University division of an integrated translational multiple myeloma research program in tandem with the Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia, which aims to maximise clinical and research outcomes for this blood cancer.