The group is particularly proud of a trial that combined two drugs that were then experimental—carfilzomib and pomalidomide— administered along with dexamethasone. 2
Both drugs have since been approved by the FDA for the treatment of multiple myeloma under the trade names Kyprolis (Onyx) and Pomalyst (Celgene), respectively.
“The combination turned out to have a very high response rate in patients who’d failed everything,” Durie said. “Our lead patient in that trial was in remission at 16 months, although the expectation of survival for such a patient is three to six months. In addition, because the results were so promising, we just got permission from Celgene and Onyx to move this study to patients with earlier stages of disease.”
In addition to his research roles, Durie continues to see patients. At the Cedars- Sinai Outpatient Cancer Center at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute in Los Angeles, the doctor sees about a dozen patients with multiple myeloma a month for high-level referrals, either telling them whether they have the disease or what approved or experimental treatment might be best for them.
In between, Durie finds time to teach myeloma courses for physicians, such as a recent two-week master class for doctors from China. He also lectures around the world, from Moscow to Sydney to Beijing.
Brian G.M. Durie, MD . . .
Has two children, a 31-year-old son, Ben, who is a lawyer, and a 29-year-old daughter, Annabel, an event planner.
Married the wife of a late patient, years after collaborating with the couple to create the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF). Today, Durie and Susie Novis continue to run the foundation together.
Cites the book by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger What Is Life? as a favorite. “It explains why our bodies retain their physical integrity and function in a sophisticated way, rather than collapsing into a pool of water at the end of the day,” Durie said.
Loves the movie Hair, directed by Miloš Forman. In the movie, two men, one a hippie and the other about to enter the Army to fight in the Vietnam War, switch places. “I was interested in the idea of what one friend would do for another, and the consequences,” Durie said.
Lives by the saying “Try, try again.” It’s an attitude he said was inspired by the old Scottish story of warrior Robert the Bruce, who found motivation to follow through on his battle plans by watching a spider laboriously, but successfully, spinning its web.
Had some bad experiences while spending a summer working on a kibbutz in Israel. “Picking cotton was really tough, but the worst part was that I ended up getting bitten by a snake, a pit viper, and had to go to the hospital for antivenom,” Durie recalled. “I was fine, but it was not my favorite thing.”
Has always enjoyed participating in sports. Durie has worked as a tennis coach, and played tennis and squash for Edinburgh University while in medical school. He still plays racquet sports and golf, and also likes traveling and meeting new people.
Has presented and served as the organizing chairman of numerous teaching sessions hosted by the American Society of Hematology. Durie has also taught sessions at the George Washington University Medical Center, and at meetings of SWOG, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and other organizations and institutions.
Has won numerous awards, including $100,000 a year for five years from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 1976; the organization gives the “scholar” award to help develop the careers of promising young researchers. In 2002, Durie won the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging’s annual first-prize award for Best Clinical Medicine Study, for his paper on whole-body FDG/PET scanning in myeloma (J Nucl Med. 2002;43:1457-1463). He also has received the IMF’s Robert A. Kyle Lifetime Achievement Award and the Waldenstrom’s Award for lifetime achievement in myeloma research.
Making an Impact
From the beginning of his career, Durie’s research has led to practice-changing developments in the treatment of multiple myeloma.
One such development emerged after he had finished his education and was starting his first job at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in the early 1970s.
As a researcher in the lab of Sydney E. Salmon, MD, Durie’s first task was to help develop a staging system for multiple myeloma. Salmon had been conducting studies to calculate the number of myeloma cells in patients’ bodies, and Durie used that type of query as the basis for his system. It was the first time such a method had been devised for use in a blood cancer, and the first paper Durie ever published about myeloma.3