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Curing Multiple Myeloma Through Genetically Engineering Immune Boosters

a doc prescribing multiple myeloma treatment
a close up of genetic engineering
The key to treating multiple myeloma lies in genetic engineering.

For those who have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, coming to terms with the existing lack of treatment is tough. Not only are multiple myeloma treatment options limited, but they often fail to work. In fact, the average life expectancy of those after diagnosis is about two years. Understanding this, and the fact that this blood-related cancer is common, new therapies are desperately needed. Thus, it’s not surprising that research centers and biopharmaceutical companies are exploring new cutting-edge techniques. One of those innovative approaches involves genetic engineering that can create a more targeted approach. And based on the latest research, it seems that a major breakthrough for multiple myeloma treatment has been discovered.

Cancer specialists have been exploring the use of genetic engineering to treat cancers like multiple myeloma. Unfortunately, this form of multiple myeloma treatment is quite expensive and limited in availability. But that may soon change as Israeli researchers appear to have expedited the process and made it more affordable. In addition, their latest test results have demonstrated a 90% remission rate among those treated with their treatments. This new multiple myeloma treatment, called CAR-T Therapy, looks to be a major breakthrough. Not only could it revolutionize the way multiple myeloma is managed. But it could also pave the way for many other genetically engineered treatments.

“In light of the impressive results of CAR-T treatments, it seems that they have many more years to live – and with an excellent quality of life.” – Prof. Polina Stepensky, Head of Oncology, Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem

Understanding Multiple Myeloma

Believe it or not, multiple myeloma is the second most common hematologic cancer in the world. In fact, it represents 10% of all blood cancers and 1% of all malignancies. Based on this, it is certainly not uncommon. And because it has been previously recognized as being incurable, a disease that carries significant mortality. That does not mean that multiple myeloma treatment regimens don’t exist. But overall, these have been ineffective for many patients and plagued with side effects. This is one reason why scientists have turned to new approaches like genetic engineering in search of better options.

In essence, multiple myeloma is a cancer of one’s bone marrow, affecting blood and immune cells. In terms of symptoms, it is often asymptomatic early on in the course. Diagnosis is often discovered through routine blood tests accidentally in many cases as a result. However, later in the disease, many different parts of the body can be affected, hence the name “multiple.” The spine, skull, pelvis and rib areas are common sites of involvement. Common symptoms also include weakness and fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, easy bruising, bone fractures, and chronic bone pain. While current multiple myeloma treatment can slow down the disease, it is most often ineffective for remissions. And with its concurrent side effects, many patients’ quality of life is negatively affected.

a dude getting chemotherapy for multiple myeloma
Any cancer is a rough diagnosis, but multiple myeloma is a especially tough. If the cure lies in genetically-engineered immune boosters, that would be a game-changing breakthrough.

CAR-T Therapy

The latest multiple myeloma treatment to be developed shows much greater promise than prior therapies. In essence, the new treatment boosts a patient’s own immune system and teaches it to attack the cancer cells present. Called Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy, or CAR-T Therapy for short, a patient’s white cells are genetically engineered. The genetic engineering basically changes white blood cells to target and attack multiple myeloma cancer cells. Once attached, these white cells destroy the cancer, which in theory should eliminate the cancer altogether. And notably, the latest research supports this.

In terms of the actual process involved in this genetic engineering, there are certainly some complexities and intricacies. Healthy white cells are first harvested from a patient affected by multiple myeloma through a process called apheresis. Once collected, a virus is introduced into the white cells’ genetic material. However, the virus contains more than its own DNA/RNA. It also contains a genetic segment that encodes for a receptor on the multiple myeloma cells. Once this segment is part of the white cell, the immune cells target this cancer receptor and attaches. From there, it launches an immune attack and ultimately destroys these cancer cells one by one. As you can appreciate, this new multiple myeloma treatment is highly complex and typical of today’s precision medicine efforts.

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The Latest Research

multiple myeloma treatment as prescribed by a doctor
Thanks to genetic engineering, a viable multiple myeloma treatment is nearly here.

For a while, similar techniques like CAR-T Therapy have been used in the U.S. and China. However, the multiple myeloma treatment offered is extremely expensive, costing about $400,000 a treatment. Given this, it has not been cost-effective or very accessible to those who need it the most. In fact, only about a fifth of such patients ever receive the therapy. Fortunately, this looks to be changing thanks to a collaboration between Israeli researchers and IMMX Bio pharmaceuticals. The research process was designed and developed at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem. IMMX Bio acquired a patent license to further scale the process to reach a higher number of patients.

While these developments are promising, CAR-T Therapy is still being treated as experimental at the current time. This only allows Israeli providers to treat about 1 patient per week despite having a 200-patient waiting list. However, there is good news around the corner. IMMX Bio expects to gain FDA approval next year for CAR-T Therapy as a multiple myeloma treatment. Likewise, researchers are further refining the genetic engineering process to reduce costs. And based on their latest trial of 74 patients, CAR-T Therapy looks to be highly effective. Roughly 90% of patients treated went into complete remission. Compared to statistics using other multiple myeloma treatment regimens of the past, these figures are impressive.

The Age of Precision Medicine

These latest cancer research findings highlight the advancing breakthroughs occurring in medicine today. The ability to pursue a more personalized and targeted approach to care invites new opportunities for better results. And with more focused treatments, side effects tend to be less along with complications. In the case of multiple myeloma treatment, the genetic engineering strategies used appear to offer great potential. Though the next challenge will be scaling treatments and reducing costs, the latest research holds great promise.

 

Targeted medicine and treatments are the future–read all about in this Bold story.

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