Miami (AFP) – A new kind of immune therapy has shown promise against the third most usual blood cancer, multiple myeloma, researchers said Wednesday.
The drug, elotuzumab, is a monoclonal antibody — a type of immune cell — made by Bristol Myers-Squibb, & was granted a breakthrough therapy designation by the US Food & Drug Administration last year.
The phase III study involved 646 people who had multiple myeloma which returned after initial treatment with the standard therapy, lenalidomide & dexamethasone.
p>Patients were randomly assigned to receive either the standard therapy, or the standard therapy plus elotuzumab. It was an open-label study, meaning the doctors & patients knew which drugs were being given.
After a follow-up period of approximately two years, those who took the additional drug saw a 30 percent lower risk of dying or having their cancer return, compared to the other group.
Those in the elotuzumab group moreover lived an average of 19.4 months without their disease getting worse, compared to 14.5 months on the standard arm, a difference that researchers described as "significant."
Sagar Lonial, chief medical officer of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, said the longer remission & higher overall response rate in the elotuzumab group came without a huge increase in adverse effects & no reduction in quality of life.
He said the drug works by targeting both the tumor cells & enhancing the activation of natural killer cells in the immune system.
"In many ways it is a bit of a double whammy, if you will, in terms of the tumor itself," he told reporters on a conference call.
The study was funded by Bristol Myers-Squibb & AbbVie, a pharmaceutical research company. It was released ahead of the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, to be held after this month in Chicago.
Health Care IndustryBristol Myers-Squibbmultiple myeloma