ICR research investigates how genetic analyses can drive targeted myeloma treatments

Myeloma UK news, Research news // 27th July 2017

New research that investigates how studying specific genetic abnormalities in myeloma cells can help to create more targeted and effective treatments for individual patients has been carried out by Myeloma UK-funded researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London.

The findings, which were recently published in the prestigious scientific journal, Leukemia, support evidence for using genetic analyses of a patient’s cancer cells as a prognostic tool and to predict which treatment a patient is most likely to respond to – an approach known as stratified medicine.

Researchers from The ICR analysed bone marrow samples from over 1,900 newly-diagnosed myeloma patients, who participated in two major UK myeloma trials (MRC Myeloma IX and NCRI Myeloma XI), to assess genetic abnormalities in their myeloma cells.

Their analysis focussed on the prognostic value of two types of genetic abnormalities seen in myeloma cell chromosomes: translocations and copy number alterations.

The resulting data showed that in cases where multiple abnormalities occurred together, the risk of a poorer prognosis in newly diagnosed patients was three times greater than newly diagnosed patients not carrying the chromosomal abnormalities.

This suggests certain genetic markers can be used to help to predict how the disease could progress on a case-by-case basis, and could also be used to create targeted treatments that could ultimately improve a patient’s outcome.

These findings are important because myeloma is a complex cancer that varies from patient to patient depending on the course of the disease, meaning patients can respond differently to treatments.

A key goal in myeloma research is to understand exactly how this diversity occurs, and to use this knowledge to ensure patients access the right treatment at the right time.

This exciting new research from Myeloma UK-funded researchers at The ICR could potentially determine new pathways to more effective, targeted treatments based on the genetic make-up of an individual’s cancer cells.

It is just one of a number of significant discoveries to come out of the research being funded by Myeloma UK at The ICR, which aims to ensure that research like this can benefit patients as quickly as possible.

Dr Simon Ridley, Director of Research at Myeloma UK, said, “The approach taken in this research is central to the strategy of the Myeloma UK Translational Research Programme at The ICR, which links discoveries underpinning the genetic basis of myeloma directly to clinical outcomes and ultimately towards stratified medicine.

In the longer term, the aim is for patients to benefit from the most effective treatments for their particular manifestation of myeloma and avoid exposure to treatments which are unlikely to benefit them in the long-run.

Dr Simon Ridley, Director of Research at Myeloma UK

“In the longer term, the aim is for patients to benefit from the most effective treatments for their particular manifestation of myeloma and avoid exposure to treatments which are unlikely to benefit them in the long-run.”

It is with thanks to our supporters that Myeloma UK can fund this kind of research into myeloma. For more information on how you can support Myeloma UK, visit myeloma.org.uk/get-involved