Using Your Own Body to Attack Cancer

Multiple myeloma immunotherapy makes progress

(RxWiki News) In the world of medicine, drugs, surgery or radiation are the usual options to treat cancer. Recently, another route has presented itself - enhancing the body's own immune system to attack the cancer.

This concept, called immunotherapy, uses the same principles as vaccines. It provides the immune system with clear targets to develop an immune response against. 

But research in using immunotherapy for multiple myeloma in particular has been difficult because the cancer cells can be very different from each other. 

"Ask your oncologist about immunotherapy."

In a recent presentation to the 53rd annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, scientists at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute said they now believe they have solved this problem, and they're ready to find out in human trials.

Past research in immunotherapy for multiple myeloma has only given one antigen to stimulate the immune system. That's like a single wanted photo in the police station.

Under the philosophy of the more the better, Jooeun Bae, Ph.D, decided to give the immune system four antigens, to give it a better chance of recognizing the cancer cells.

Preliminary laboratory tests in human cells have shown a good response, but the concept needs to be tested in clinical trials to know for sure.

"This is an exciting possibility," co-author Nikhil Munshi, M.D., adds, "because these patients have good immune systems, and currently there's nothing we can do for them."

Funding for this work was provided by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Several scientists who authored this study disclosed positions as consultants or on the board of directors with the following groups: Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Novaris, Onyx and Celgene.

Review Date: 
January 26, 2012