Over the past ten years, I have seen the treatment of multiple myeloma dramatically improve because of new drug therapies that have come out of clinical trials. I am now leading a clinical study to learn more about the genetic components of multiple myeloma and how we can use that knowledge to come up with better, more targeted drugs and individualized therapies for patients. I think this landmark study will lead to treatments that effect long-term remission, or even cure, from the cancer.
In the CoMMpass study, launched by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, we will follow 1,000 newly diagnosed patients with multiple myeloma over the course of eight years. We will study the genomic changes in their disease while they receive frontline treatments, and continue studying those changes through remission stages or relapse. One of the questions we hope to answer is why some patients do well on a specific drug, while others do not and may need multiple drugs to keep their myeloma from advancing.
The first step in the study is mapping out the molecular characterization of a patient’s tumor using sequencing at the time of initial diagnosis, and then following what happens in the sequencing information during and after treatment. If the disease comes back, we want to know if there were changes in the disease or new mutations that were influenced by the therapy or by the original mutations themselves?
As we learn more about cancer and its various types, we do less lumping them together and more splitting them into individual diseases. Lymphoma is a good example. It used to be that the disease was characterized as six or seven different types, and now we know there are at least 50 different variations of lymphoma. We look at the molecular characterization of lymphoma and create subtypes that are potentially treated in different ways. We may need to do that in myeloma. In the CoMMpass study, we will be able to have individual tumor specimens molecularly sequenced, which has never been done before, and we will learn much more about the cancer and its number of subtypes.
We are also looking at the impact of side effects on quality of life issues in this trial. There may be molecular characteristics of a patient’s tumor that can tell us whether that patient will have side effects from a specific treatment, so mapping a patient’s molecular subtype might influence the type of drugs he gets.
We have seen the life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients double in the last ten years. I think that there are probably some patients we are curing now and I believe that CoMMpass will help us to identify the best drugs and the best targets to increase the cure rate in this disease. We hope this study will help push the barrier to cure even further, but do it in a way that does not compromise a patient’s quality of life.
To learn more, watch this video as Dr. Lonial further explains Multiple Myeloma and treatment options for the diease.
Want to learn more about multiple myeloma? Join expert physician, Jonathan Kaufman, MD, for a live web chat on March 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST. Dr. Kaufman will be there to answers all your questions about known risks, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma. Bring your questions and prepare for a great discussion!
About Dr. Sagar Lonial
Dr. Lonial is Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and Director of the Translational Research for the B-Cell Malignancy Program. He is also a professor in the Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Lonial’s research focuses on combination therapy in B-cell malignancies focusing on myeloma. He is a trained bone marrow transplant physician with an interest in molecular therapy for lymphoma and myeloma. His clinical interests include evaluating the combination of new molecular targeted agents for B-cell tumors as well as target discovery and validation.
Dr. Lonial has authored or coauthored over 200 publications and recently was awarded the Celgene ‘Young Investigator’ Award, the MMRF ‘Top 15 Innovator’ Award, and the MMRC ‘Center of the Year’ award.
He earned his medical degree from the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, followed by a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.