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Hopeful future for multiple myeloma patients

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Professor Paul Browne

Professor of Haematology, Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital

Developments in CAR-T therapy for multiple myeloma have lagged behind those for other forms of blood cancers, but that’s all changing.

Results from the first significant trials into CAR-T therapy for multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, were published last year and offer fresh promise for patients who have few other options.

Patients who participated in the trials, including a few from Ireland, all had an advanced stage of the disease, and had already undergone multiple other treatment cycles.

“We’re aware of patients getting very good responses, but unfortunately, those are not sustained beyond six to 12 months,” explains Professor Paul Browne, Professor of Haematology at Trinity College Dublin.

Waiting for mature results, but it’s a positive start

The second generation of trials addressing issues of durability are ongoing. These studies are also assessing whether outcomes could be improved by bringing CAR-T therapy forward in a patient’s myeloma experience, rather than waiting until they are at an advanced stage.

“In principal, that sounds like an appealing idea, but we’re going to have to wait for mature results,” continues Browne.

Initial signs are promising but, realistically, it will be years rather than months before there is any talk of mass roll out and licencing.

It’s worth remembering though that, as research gathers momentum, more patients will have the opportunity to access the therapy through trials.

Browne is hopeful that some may even be conducted in Ireland. Infrastructure and funding are already in place to start treating patients who have other forms of blood cancer with CAR-T therapy in the country in the very near future.

“Trials are our aim,” confirms Browne. “We have a very good track record of delivering stem cell therapy. We have a very attractive system with an integrated approach working with partners, and some seed funding.”

While great leaps have been made in advancing CAR-T therapy to treat multiple myeloma, it takes significant time to accumulate the evidence needed to progress further.

The journey continues, but it does so with great hope.

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