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New blood cancer therapy treats seven in 10 patients

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‘New lease on life’ for blood cancer patients as experimental therapy treats 73 PERCENT of patients in global clinical trials

  • The treatment targets recurring multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer 
  • More than 30 percent of trial patients saw all traces of their cancer disappear 
  • Talquetamab work as well or better than similar multiple myeloma treatments  

An experimental therapy could offer blood cancer patients a ‘new lease on life’, scientists say.

The immunotherapy treatment — called talquetamab — successfully treated 73 percent of patients with multiple myeloma in a global trial.

It helped people who had relapsed in their disease more than once after other treatments failed to bring them into remission for an extended period of time. 

Dr Ajai Chari from the Multiple Myeloma Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute and lead author of both studies said: ‘This means that almost three-quarters of these patients are looking at a new lease on life.’

The drug works by teaching the body’s white blood cells to kill tumor cells that form in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.

Multiple myeloma is a deadly cancer which kills around half of sufferers within five years of a diagnosis.

Talquetamab, administered intravenously, helped reduced cancer or clear it entirely in about 73 per cent of patients who took part in the trials

Talquetamab, administered intravenously, helped reduced cancer or clear it entirely in about 73 per cent of patients who took part in the trials

The new drug specifically targets the protein GPRC5D. Too much of it in the bone marrow is associated with poor survival in patients with multiple myeloma.

Talquetamab binds to GPRC5D which rallies T cells – white blood cells that develop from stem cells in the bone marrow – to fight the cancerous cells.

It was tested in two separate trials, the first of which was published in September.

The Phase 2 results were presented Saturday at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting.

The reflected data from nearly 300 cancer patients who had tried at least three different therapies without achieving lasting remission.

While 143 patients were treated with a 405 μg per kilogram dose weekly and 145 patients treated with a higher 800 μg per kilogram dose every other week.

Scientists recorded improvements in symptoms after about a month. People began responding to the treatments at different doses within about nine months. 

More than 30 percent of patients in both groups had a complete response, meaning all signs of cancer have disappeared.

The rest of successful treatment patients had a very good partial response or better, meaning the cancer was substantially reduced but not necessarily down to zero.

Talquetamab also worked at least as well or better than other standard treatments for multiple myeloma.

Sixty-five percent of those who received talquetamab at the 405-μg dose level and 70 percent of those who received it at the 800-μg dose level had an immune response.

Meanwhile, only 25 percent of similar patients who received selinexor plus dexamethasone, and 31 percent of those who received belantamab mafodotin.

Both of those drugs are Food and Drug Administration-approved.

What is multiple myeloma?

Myeloma is a blood cancer arising from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow, the spongy material at the center of larger bones.

It’s sometimes called multiple myeloma as it often affects several areas of the body at once, such as the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs. 

Roughly 35,000 American adults will be diagnoses with MM this year.

An estimated 12,640 deaths (7,090 men and 5,550 women) from this disease are expected in the US this year.

It is the most aggressive type of bone marrow cancer.

In its early stages myeloma does not cause any symptoms, although sufferers may eventually begin to experience persistent bone pain, tiredness or repeated infections.

Once identified through a blood test, the disease can be controlled by chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, but it cannot be cured.

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