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Emerging Treatments in Multiple Myeloma Spark Prospect for Cure

Kristi Rosa
Published: Tuesday, Mar 26, 2019

James E. Hoffman, MD

James E. Hoffman, MD

With the development of novel therapeutic options, such as monoclonal antibodies and CAR T-cell therapies, the outlook for patients with multiple myeloma has significantly improved, said James E. Hoffman, MD. In fact, some of these approaches may even possess curative potential, he said, an idea that up until now has been unheard of in the space.

“We have an abundance of riches in terms of options for treating myeloma,” said Hoffman, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System. “A decade ago, the options were so limited that we would just throw medications at patients because we didn’t have any alternative options. Now, you can be much more diligent about choosing medications that won't hurt the patient.”

Currently, the different treatment approaches include proteasome inhibitors, immunomodulatory (IMiD) agents, and most recently, monoclonal antibodies. The 2 monoclonal antibodies that have received FDA approval in myeloma are daratumumab (Darzalex) and elotuzumab (Empliciti), both of which have shown impressive response rates when paired with IMiDs.

Beyond these antibodies, investigators are also evaluating the use of CAR T-cell therapy in this space, based on its observed success in other hematologic malignancies.

“This class of therapy, and more broadly, immunotherapies like this, hold a lot of promise—maybe even curative promise—for patients with relapsed disease,” said Hoffman, who cited bb2121, an anti-BCMA CAR T-cell product, to be furthest along in the developmental process.

In an interview during the 2019 OncLive® State of the Science Summit™ on Hematologic Malignancies, Hoffman discussed the current treatment options available for patients with multiple myeloma, underscored remaining challenges in the space, and shared predictions for where the field is headed.

OncLive®: What treatments are currently available in multiple myeloma?

Hoffman: In multiple myeloma, there are really 3 main categories of therapy. There's a class of medications called proteasome inhibitors. Proteasomes are like the garbage cans of the cells, and if you paralyze them, myeloma cells really don't like that. There is a second category of drugs called IMiD agents. Thalidomide was the first in that category. The final category of agents are monoclonal antibodies.

There are multiple ways in which you can combine one drug from group A, one drug from group B, and one drug from group C, with different side effect profiles and different efficacies. We went through a couple of iterations where we used newer-generation drugs from each of those categories in combination and described the data both in terms of efficacy and adverse events.

Are there approaches under exploration in this space that you’re excited about?

There is a class called CAR T-cell therapy, which is a type of immunotherapy that already has FDA-approved entities in the world of leukemia and lymphoma. In the world of myeloma, there has also been several advances. There are a few dozen drugs being evaluated in clinical trials. I highlighted 1 of those drugs, bb2121, which appears to be the farthest along.

What unmet needs still need to be addressed in this space?

The problem with relapsed myeloma is two-fold. On one hand, these patients already got sick with their illness and had to undergo treatment. For many of them, that included a strong treatment like stem cell transplant. Therefore, they have a lot to recover from; their body has been through a lot.

Then, on relapse, they have an illness that can't be cured and hurts them in some capacity as it wakes back up. [When this happens], you have to throw new medications at them. You have a patient who is already sick with an illness, who has already been treated, who now needs to receive new medications.

Like in many related diseases, what we're looking for are highly efficacious, minimally toxic medicines. Myeloma is still an incurable illness in 2019, and in an ideal world, we would start to develop therapies that could offer curative potential so that patients could be treated for some finite period of time and then be able to go off therapy. Right now, the disease is treated more like a chronic illness, meaning patients remain on therapy. This is a big life burden for them—physically, financially, and emotionally. 

How is the field evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

I would say a couple of things are probably going to happen. Some of the best drugs that we have for myeloma—including this class of monoclonal antibodies—are relatively new; they’ve only been around for about 3 to 3.5 years. That class of drugs is such a good addition to our treatment program.




View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: 14th Annual International Symposium on Melanoma and Other Cutaneous Malignancies®Apr 30, 20192.0
Oncology Consultations®: The Advancing Role of CAR T-Cell Therapies in Hematologic MalignanciesApr 30, 20191.5
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