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UKMF conference round up: exploring the future of myeloma treatment

17th November 2020 // Caroline Donoghue

Every year representatives from Myeloma UK get the opportunity to join the UK Myeloma Forum (UKMF) Spring and Autumn Days. These meetings are attended by leading myeloma clinicians and include presentations on the latest and greatest myeloma research.

This year’s UKMF Autumn meeting, although virtual, was no different. The presentations and discussions, to me, further emphasised how far myeloma treatment and myeloma patient survival has come since Myeloma UK and the UKMF were first established and how much hope there is for the future.

The discussions highlighted the high level of research happening across the globe and just how many possibilities there were to transform the myeloma treatment pathway, so patients not only live longer but have a better quality of life.

We heard about how clinical trials, stem cell transplantation (SCT) and immunotherapies might look in the future and how they could completely change the way myeloma patients are treated.

This got me thinking – what could the future of myeloma treatment look like?

Will it be CAR-T cell therapy, antibody-drug conjugates, myeloma vaccines or even NK cell therapies that would be the treatment of choice in the future? Some of these new treatments could be available as soon as next year and others will take several years to develop.

Discussing this with my colleagues, I realised that we all had our favourites and the treatment that we thought would make the biggest difference to myeloma patients.

Hannah Parkin, Senior Healthcare Professional Projects Officer who works on our early diagnosis programme, said:
“For me, it is oncolytic viruses and vaccines. I really liked the idea that they could be used to target pre-cancerous cells. Getting in early and either slowing or preventing progression to myeloma. The research is very early days and still in the pre-clinical trial, proof of principle stage. But it would be great!”

Shelagh McKinlay, Head of Patient Advocacy, said:
“I really liked Mohammad Mohty’s idea of precision SCTs –a SCT and CAR-T cell treatment hybrid that is tailored to the patient. To me, giving patients shorter treatment “packages” and more time off treatment would be a gamechanger.”

Kim Dolman, Myeloma Information Specialist, said:
“My vote goes to the quadruplet induction treatment. It is already approved for use in the US and Europe. If it were approved for use on the NHS, it could improve first remission time and extend the life of newly diagnosed patients as soon as next year.”

For me, although I have my favourites, I think that most of the novel treatments will have a place in the future. Myeloma is a complex and very individual cancer so it is unlikely that one treatment will be suitable for all patients. We need treatment solutions for everybody and for that reason I was encouraged to see a focus on not only improving current treatments, but also on finding new approaches to overcome aggressive forms of myeloma that are resistant to standard treatments.

My key takeout from the meeting was that we have come a long way in the last twenty years and, although there is a lot of work to be done, both in terms of research and patient access, the innovations in the next twenty years have the potential to completely transform the myeloma treatment pathway once again.