Understanding the molecular changes in mature myeloma cells and myeloma stem cells that trigger its aggressive behavior is a key goal. Researchers also need to learn why a patient's immune system allows the process to continue unchecked. This can help identify and engage targets using small molecules (drugs) and new immune therapies. Resulting therapies will be validated first in patients with high-risk disease, then in all myeloma patients.
Clinical trials for early-stage myeloma will study the two precursor myeloma stages and test the effects of antibody that prevents cancer cells from functioning. They also will study pembrolizumab, a drug that targets programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) receptors and takes cancer cells offline altogether.
Another project aims to identify relevant peptides (short amino acid chains) for their ability to stimulate the immune system. The Multiple Myeloma Moon Shot™ also is determining the efficacy of natural killer cells, collected from umbilical cord blood, to treat myeloma. This approach would supplement high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation. Two genetics pilot projects aim to identify the vulnerabilities of myeloma cells carrying a deletion of chromosome 17p or an amplification of chromosome 1q21.
- Robert Orlowski, M.D., Ph.D., professor and interim chair, Lymphoma/Myeloma
- R. Eric Davis, M.D., associate professor, Lymphoma/Myeloma
- Donald Berry, Ph.D., professor, Biostatistics