Multiple Myeloma Archives

Plasma cells are cells in the immune system that make antibodies, which help the body fight infection and disease. Multiple myeloma cells are abnormal plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) that build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in many bones of the body.

More resources for Multiple Myeloma from Patient Empowerment Network.

[ACT]IVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy Resource Guide II

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ACTIVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy Resource Guide_KrinaPatel

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Miguel’s Journey: Embracing CAR T-cell Therapy as a Latinx Myeloma Survivor



Miguel’s Journey: Embracing CAR T-cell Therapy as a Latinx Myeloma Survivor from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloma survivor Miguel wasn’t experiencing any symptoms when he received his shocking diagnosis. Watch as he shares his experience as a Latinx myeloma patient dealing with testing, multiple lines of treatment, and CAR T-cell therapy – and how to stay [ACT]IVATED in your care.

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Related Resources:

What Is the Impact of CAR T Therapy Access Barriers on Patients?

What Is the Impact of CAR T-Cell Therapy Access Barriers on Patients?

What Are CAR T Therapy Requirements for Care Partners?

What Are CAR T-Cell Therapy Requirements for Care Partners?

CAR T-Cell Therapy Follow-Up Monitoring | What Patients Can Expect

CAR T-Cell Therapy Follow-Up Monitoring | What Patients Can Expect

Transcript:

Being ACTIVATED in CAR T-cell therapy care is critical for patients and families. My name is Miguel and I want to share my story as a myeloma survivor and Latinx man. Even though CAR T-cell therapy has improved survival rates for myeloma patients, some disparities to treatment access still persist. 

I was 52 when I was diagnosed with smoldering myeloma, and my diagnosis came as a complete shock. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, and my doctor only discovered my condition after noticing that something looked abnormal in my blood work. After ordering further testing, my diagnosis was confirmed with a bone marrow biopsy. That was just the start of my long journey. My hematologist informed me that several rounds of chemotherapy would be best for my first line of treatment.

After I finished my rounds of chemo, my hematologist continued to monitor my tests closely for signs of recurrence. When my tests reached concerning levels, my doctor then recommended that I move forward with an autologous stem cell transplant – taken from my own stem cells.

Those were just my first two lines of therapy. My third line of therapy was an immunotherapy as part of combination therapy that worked for nearly two years. An allogeneic stem cell transplant – with stem cells taken from a donor – was recommended next. That second stem cell transplant kept my myeloma at bay for about two years. It was a nice break, and I was able to qualify for a CAR T-cell therapy when it came time to act on my fifth line of treatment. I had learned from my myeloma support group that patients need to have a lot of support to qualify for CAR T. 

Patients need to have a care partner to support them, and I was fortunate enough to have my sister stay with me to help me with my appointments and recovery. CAR T-cell therapy has made the future brighter for so many myeloma patients.

There have been a lot of recent advancements in CAR T-cell therapy for myeloma. I hope that sharing my story will make a difference for other myeloma patients who may have some mistrust of doctors. Remember, become empowered and stay [ACT]IVATED with these tips. 

[ACT]IVATION tips for CAR T patients: 

  • Ask your care team questions to learn about the status of your myeloma, treatment options, and what to expect during and after treatment.
  • Inquire if a clinical trial may be a potential treatment option for your myeloma.
  • Join a patient support group to offer and receive emotional support.
  • Stay updated about myeloma treatment options and research advancements. 

Being proactive is an essential step in your myeloma journey. Stay [ACT]IVATED by being informed, empowered, and engaged in your care.


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Enhancing Access and [ACT]IVATION in CAR T-cell Therapy

Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) has a strong commitment to providing educational content and to empowering patients and care partners in CAR T information. CAR T-cell therapy has unique eligibility and care requirements, and it’s essential for patients and families to inform themselves about the full CAR T-cell therapy process. With these objectives in mind, PEN initiated the [ACT]IVATED CAR T program, which aims to inform, empower, and engage patients to stay well-informed about CAR T therapy.

 CAR T-cell therapy can be a powerful treatment option for many myeloma patients, but there are barriers to access and treatment refinements that need to be addressed for some patient populations. One key disparity is the fact that African American patients make up about 20 percent of the U.S. myeloma population but comprise less than 5 percent of myeloma clinical trial participation. PEN remains steadfast in helping to decrease disparities by offering resources on CAR T-cell therapy to aid in advocacy and awareness efforts.

Cancer survivor Lisa Hatfield interviewed experts Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi from the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center as part of [ACT]IVATED CAR T.

Dr. Krina Patel and Lisa Hatfield

CAR T-Cell Therapy Eligibility Requirements

 Though some myeloma patients may think eligibility to CAR T is more difficult than stem cell transplant, Dr. Krina Patel stated this is not the case. Dr. Patel also shared the success that she’s seen in patients over time. “…I have so many patients that are over a year, two years out without any therapy now. And they’re doing fantastically.

And, and again, my patients with comorbidities and my older patients, they’re the ones who benefit when we’re not on any therapy because continuous therapy ends up causing more toxicity for them. And so I think it’s really, really important to speak up to your doctor and just say, this is something I’d really be interested in.”

 Dr. Patel continued to explain a key difference in inpatient versus outpatient CAR T-cell therapy eligibility requirements. Though patients who stay in the hospital for their CAR T-cell therapy don’t need a care partner with them, this isn’t the case for outpatients since a care partner is needed to monitor the patient’s symptoms. “…if you’re going to do it with outpatient, then yes, because again, when things go wrong, they can go wrong pretty fast, especially with the ICANS, neurotoxicity. So ICANS, most patients just have a little bit of trouble writing or they might have a little bit of trouble with confusion, but if that happens, you might not remember or know who to call if you’re not feeling well, right.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi

CAR T-Cell Therapy Disparities

 Some CAR T-cell therapy patient groups and patient types have shown different responses to therapy. One study concluded that African American patients were more likely to experience side effects from CAR T. Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi discussed research efforts that are working toward improvements. “What we are trying to do to mitigate some of these side effects, there are now studies which are giving either some low doses of steroids as a prophylaxis before, right around the time of CAR T, so that side effects may not happen. Studies that are giving a low dose or even standard dose of what’s called tocilizumab (Actemra), toci, or tocilizumab. 

African American patients in general have inflammatory disorders at a higher rate, and inflammation can impact CAR T-cell therapy side effects. Dr. Ailawadhi shares how patient monitoring is increased for African American patients at the Mayo Clinic. “…CRS, which is an immune system mediated inflammatory response, I can imagine that some of it might be higher in African Americans.

So, in our clinics, what we are doing is when we are monitoring the patients, every patient is getting monitored the same way, but when it’s an African American patient, we are putting a little bit more focus on those inflammatory markers that can sometimes start showing up even before the CRS happens.

Side effect prevention also helps with reducing other barriers to CAR T as a treatment option. Dr. Ailawadhi shared, “…by preventing the side effects, we are being able to give the treatment in a way that the patients may have lesser side effects and can get it done closer to home or at home sometimes, and their time to stay in the hospital is lesser. You can imagine that some of these barriers are being further mitigated.”

Solutions to Overcome CAR T Disparity Gaps

Some myeloma patient groups may face barriers to or disparities in CAR T-cell therapy, but some efforts to solutions are underway. Dr. Ailawadhi discussed some roadblocks to CAR T care for Black and Latinx patients. “A lot of times they are sociodemographic, patients need to take time away from work. They have to have a caregiver, they have to have appropriate insurance approvals for certain things. They have to be able to go to a center that may be close to them.

These centers are hopefully going to be able to bring some other resources like social workers, navigators, et cetera, to help that patient get onto the trial. And then there is sometimes lack of awareness of CAR T, lack of awareness of clinical trials per se, clinical, and there are fears, anxiety, scares around getting on clinical research.

Myeloma patients who live in rural areas may now have options to access CAR T-cell therapy through the use of telemedicine and remote monitoring. Dr. Ailawadhi painted a detailed picture of how his care of an international patient has been handled from her introduction through the care she’s receiving today. “She had some family members and some means that she could actually come here, so she came to the U.S., did a consult, we did a visit, we took over her treatment, she got CAR T, but then a month or so after that she was doing fine and she wanted to go back home.

She was here with some family members living in a foreign country, not speaking the language, et cetera. Her children were very supportive and spoke English. So, she went back and I still continue to do video visits with her just to see how she’s doing, monitor her disease, she sends me records through the electronic medical system portal, I can see her labs, and I think it gives me peace of mind that I’m keeping an eye on it, it gives her peace of mind.

Additional barriers to CAR T access include language and cultural barriers. Dr. Ailawadhi discussed how  Spanish language versions of CAR T educational materials are being introduced. And he shared the idea that patients are often more receptive to healthcare providers who look and speak like them. “…we have African American, Hispanic, Asian clinical research coordinators in our teams, and we have noticed a clear difference in the patient’s understanding their ability to ask questions, their willingness to ask questions and clear out their barriers if it is given to them in a culturally sensitive, culturally appropriate manner.

[ACT]IVATED CAR T Program Resources

 The [ACT]IVATED CAR T program series takes a three-part approach to inform, empower, and engage myeloma patients and patient groups who experience health disparities. The series includes the following resources:

Though there are some special eligibility requirements for CAR T-cell therapy and some care and treatment disparities exist, CAR T can be a powerful treatment option for many patients and continues to increase with equity and access improvement efforts. We hope you can take advantage of these valuable resources to assist in building knowledge about CAR T-cell therapy for yourself or for your loved one and to help expand awareness around CAR T.

[ACT]IVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy Resource Guide II en español

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Spanish_ACTIVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy Resource Guide_KrinaPatel

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[ACT]IVATED Myeloma Resource Guide for Veterans and First Responders

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[ACT]IVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy Toolkit Checklist

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[ACT]IVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy North American Specialist Treatment Centers

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[ACT]IVATED CAR T-Cell Therapy Patient Plan

Thank you for taking this assessment. By answering the questions below, a custom patient plan featuring a collection of vetted resources will be emailed to you within 5 minutes. If you don’t see it, please be sure to check your spam. Stay [ACT]IVATED. 
 

 

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What Are Myeloma Risk Factors for Veterans and First Responders?

What Are Myeloma Risk Factors for Veterans and First Responders? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Veterans and first responders may come into contact with myeloma risk factors, but what are they? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses environmental risk factors for 9/11 first responders and veterans, average age of onset for different veteran racial groups, and proactive patient advice.

[ACT]IVATION TIP

“…if you notice that anything is off, you’re not feeling well, or the lab, something is wrong with your labs, make sure to mention that to your physicians, they can first diagnose the correct thing, if something is going on. And two, if you actually have a diagnosis of cancer, I think talking to your teams that there are probably resources out there to help with a couple of things, I think one, even financial resources.”

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Related Resources

Key Advice for Myeloma Patients | Questions to Ask About a Care Plan

Understanding Myeloma | How You Can Collaborate in Your Care

Understanding Myeloma | How You Can Collaborate in Your Care 

Roadblocks for Black and Latinx Patients From CAR T Trial Access

Roadblocks for Black and Latinx Patients From CAR T Trial Access 

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Patel, a lot of patients wonder what might have caused my myeloma, and there are some environmental factors that are known to have the association with myeloma, like Agent Orange exposure, and now we’re seeing an increased instance of myeloma and other blood cancers in the 9/11 first responders. For patients who might have concerns about this, do you have any suggestions or thoughts on that?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, I’ve actually quite a few patients that come up to me that were in previous wars or veterans, and the first thing I talk about is the 9/11 first responders. So people ask me if this they’re born with myeloma, that’s the number one question, and I say, you know, likely not, most people do not have genes that they were given by their parents, that causes myeloma.

All of us have different susceptibility to cancer based on how our immune system repairs itself, how our plasma cells repair themselves, the micro-environment, but it’s also our exposures, and we know that there’s certain exposures like Agent Orange, as well as those first responders that went in here in terms of epidemiology, in terms of the number of patients that ended up with myeloma at a younger age, a much younger age. They’re in their 50s, for the most part, that tells us that this was not something that those folks are going to get. This really was based on that exposure, and that’s the hard part of saying that something causes something.

I think we know with 9/11, the numbers were so high that this was a…listen, this is something wrong, that whatever they were exposed to during that process led to their plasma cells becoming myeloma at a much younger age, and it seems that a lot of them had more aggressive disease than the indolent slow-growing myeloma.

We see that a lot of patients get. The other big question I get is, How can we say that something caused this, and then again, it comes back to how many people are exposed and then how many people actually got that disease, and that’s why it becomes so hard. But I know a lot of my patients think about Roundup or different petrochemicals and things like that that they’ve been exposed to, and I know that the government and folks are looking into it because a lot of my patients are getting letters from us and things like that just to say, “Listen, I was exposed to this, could this have caused my myeloma?”

And again, the majority of patients are not exposed to things at that level that really tell us that that’s what caused their myeloma, but I do think that if you are exposed to something like Agent Orange or major petrochemical spill or something that is worthwhile noting at least, even though I most likely won’t be able to tell you it definitely caused the myeloma. We do know that there are environmental exposures that are more likely to lead to cancer, you know, we have these hot spots in the U.S. where especially those petrochemical companies are, where there’s a much higher level of just cancer diagnosis, not just myeloma up to cancer in general, compared to other areas where we don’t have those industrial companies existing.

Lisa Hatfield:

Do you happen to have any tips for patients who maybe were a part of 9/11 event or even veterans or first responders of any type, any tips for them in general?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, I think that the activations have here is that if you notice that anything is off, you’re not feeling well, or the lab, something is wrong with your labs, make sure to mention that to your physicians, they can first diagnose the correct thing, if something is going on. And two, if you actually have a diagnosis of cancer, I think talking to your teams that there are probably resources out there to help with a couple of things, I think one, even financial resources.

When stuff like this happens, usually there are some financial resources that pop up, and two, the mental aspect of this. You got this while you’re doing something you’re supposed to be doing and helping others, and really finding patient groups which are out there as well, so that you get the resources for just the ability to talk to someone about what happened and being able to go through that process as well.

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Patel, are there any notable trends or patterns of the presentation and progression of myeloma and other blood cancers in veterans and first responders that differ from civilians?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I honestly don’t know if there’s been anything published that shows a difference, I tend to see my veterans are a little bit younger in general, average age for myeloma, 70 for Caucasian patients, it’s 65 for Hispanic patients and 66 for African American patients, right? So a lot of my veteran patients have been in their 50s, just a little bit younger than what I’ve seen with most other patients, and then in terms of patterns, not necessarily.

We think, oh, is it more aggressive? Is it not. I do have patients with aggressive disease, but I have patients that come in with MGUS or smoldering disease that eventually turns into myeloma isn’t necessarily high risk or aggressive, but again, I don’t know any data that’s out there that’s published, I think that would be worthwhile. But I will say my patients tend to be on the younger age.


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PODCAST | Myeloma Patient Expert Q&A: Dr. Ola Landgren

 

START HERE bridges the gap between expert and patient voices, empowering myeloma patients to feel comfortable asking precise questions of their healthcare team.

In this webinar, Dr. Ola Landgren delves into the emerging and exciting therapies and clinical trials for myeloma, discusses the latest options for relapsed disease, and explores the current landscape of managing and monitoring multiple myeloma. Watch as Dr. Landgren answers patient-submitted questions and discusses another hot topic: the utilization of artificial intelligence in multiple myeloma.

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Hello, and welcome. My name is Lisa Hatfield, your host for this Patient Empowerment Network START HERE program where we bridge the expert and patient voice to enable you and me to feel comfortable asking questions of our healthcare teams. The world is complicated, but understanding your multiple myeloma doesn’t have to be. The goal of this program is to create actionable pathways for getting the most out of myeloma treatment and survivorship.

Today I am honored and really excited to be joined by Dr. Ola Landgren. Dr. Landgren is chief in the Division of Myeloma and the Department of Medicine, and also serves as director of the Sylvester Myeloma Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Landgren, it’s such a pleasure having you today.

Dr. Ola Landgren:

Thank you very much for having me. It’s really a great pleasure to be here today.

Lisa Hatfield:

So in this program, first, we’ll get a high level update from Dr. Landgren on what the latest myeloma news means for you and your family. And then we will launch into some questions that we’ve received from you. Dr. Landgren. We’re at a pivotal moment in the history of multiple myeloma. We’re experiencing an unprecedented wave of progress marked by significant increase in new treatment options and ongoing research. We are very honored to have your expertise to guide us in understanding these advancements and providing clarity around all the evolving landscape of myeloma care.

So before we get started, to you at home, would you please remember to download the program resource guide via the QR code. This is where you’ll find useful information to follow before the program and after. So we are ready to START HERE. Dr. Landgren, can you speak to the emerging and exciting myeloma therapies and trials right now?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

I’ll do my best. There are so many things to talk about, and I don’t think we have 10 hours, so I will have to shorten it. But I would say that the past 12 to 18 months, we have had three new drugs approved in the field of myeloma. These are the bispecific antibodies. The first out of those three was the BCMA-CD3 targeted drug teclistamab-cqyv (Tecvayli). And in the middle of 2023, we had both talquetamab-tgvs (Talvey), and elranatamab-bcmm (Elrexfio) approved. Talquetamab has another target is GPRC5D with CD3. And elranatamab is similar to teclistamab with the BCMA-CD3 targeted bispecific antibody. These are amazing drugs. They have been found in patients that have been heavily pretreated to result in about 60 percent or more percent of patients responding.

So overall response rates ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent in various trials. We have now these drugs approved, they’re still only approved as single drug and there are new trials going, combinations of two of these or these drugs with other drugs such as daratumumab (Darzalex) or IMiDs, such as lenalidomide (Revlimid) or pomalidomide (Pomalyst). So a lot of drug development is ongoing as we speak. We also have the CAR T cells that are reasonably new drugs. We, you think about everything new every week there’s a new drug, but they are very new CAR T cells.

We have had them for about three or so years, three-and-a-half years. And, the two drugs that are approved in that setting is, ide-cel (idecabtagene vicleucel) [Abecma]. That was the first and then cilta-cel (ciltacabtagene autoleucel) [Carvykti], that was the second. They both go after BCMA similar to the two antibodies I mentioned, teclistamab and elranatamab because they are CAR T cells, that indicates that they are cells.

They come from the same person who’s going to receive them back as treatment. So you collect the cells from the blood and you manufacture them into to CAR cells. So chimeric antigen receptor T cells, and then you give them back. There are several new CAR T-cells in development. There are other targets in development, GPRC5D, for example. There are additional other targets and there are also dual targeted cell therapies in development.

There are also allogeneic CAR T cells in development and that means that you could have a product off the shelf. So someone could donate cells, they could be manufactured into CAR T cells, and then you could give them to technically any person, so it doesn’t have to be the same person collecting and then manufacturing, giving them back. So that would shorten the time window for production.

And there are a lot of other details also that are important in this context. The whole manufacturing process that’s currently four to six weeks is being improved. There are some technologies that can make the CAR T cells in 48 hours, but the turnaround time is maybe one to two weeks with all the control steps, but that’s still a huge improvement. And then you have the antibody drug conjugate if you want.

So then you have the belantamab mafodotin (Blenrep). That actually was the first BCMA targeted therapy we had in myeloma. And then the drug was approved on an accelerated approval study. But when the randomized study was completed, it turned out that it was not better than the control arm. The company took it off the market. And now what’s happening is that there are two new trials, and one of them was just reported in the beginning of February of 2024.

The other one was around the ASH meeting in 2023. These two trials show that if you combine it with other drugs, the most recent one was with bortezomib-dexamethasone (Velcade-Decadron), that was superior with the belantamab mafodotin with bortezomib-dexamethasone versus daratumumab with bortezomib-dexamethasone. So I think we will probably see this drug coming back to the myeloma field. It is currently available as compassionate use, so physicians can prescribe it, but these trials will most likely, I would think, lead to FDA approvals with these combinations.

And lastly, I would say that other exciting trials, there are so many trials going on, but another thing that I think is interesting and exciting is also the use of antigens. And you can use mRNA and things like that. So these are like the vaccines. You can either, take a patients’ myeloma cells and look what they have on the surface, you can make more traditional vaccines or you can use more sophisticated newer technologies just like how the COVID vaccines were developed. And you can inject these sequences and then they will translate into spike proteins where the immune system could go after myeloma cells.

We don’t yet have a product like that in the myeloma field, but there are a lot of biotech and groups that are working to see. Moderna, was actually initially a cancer vaccine company and then COVID came and they turned into a COVID company, and now they’re be back again in the cancer field. So that’s a little bit of a summary of a lot of the exciting news that’s out there.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you. And do you have any comments about the sequencing of some of these? So with both CAR T and some of the bispecifics approved, obviously if a patient comes in and they need something right away, they’ll take whatever is first available. But all things being equal, if a patient says, well, I can, I have both CAR T accessible and bispecifics accessible. There are some patients out there, I’ve spoken with some who are wondering, is there a benefit to sequencing one before the other, or are there any trials looking into that?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

There are studies that have allowed patients to go on treatment with one of these modalities. For example, the bispecific antibodies with the prior exposure to a CAR T-cell therapy. There are also trials with CAR T-cell therapy that has allowed patients who have been exposed to prior antibodies, either bispecifics or the conjugated antibody drug conjugates, Belantamab mafodotin. So if you look at those studies and see how the numbers compare, if you are not exposed or you are exposed, I think the data is not entirely clear-cut.

There is no definitive study. Some data suggests that maybe it’s not that different, but then there are some studies that suggest that if you go to the antibody first that maybe that would lower the efficacy of the CAR T cell. So some people have for that reason said the CAR T cell should be done first. To make it even more complicated, there are some studies that have then taken time into the equation. So that means that you could have the patient treated with the antibodies for BCMA and CD3, and the antibody is given successfully for a long time, for many years. And eventually, unfortunately, the antibody may stop working.

Now, if you switch back to back to a CAR T-cell therapy without any other therapy in between, some studies indicate that that’s less likely to be beneficial. But if you instead do another target, say you did GPRC5D/CD3, or you did a completely different therapy with small molecules or you did carfilzomib (Kyprolis), or you did venetoclax (Venclexta), or IMiDs, or different types of combinations that are out there, been around for a long time, and you get good mileage out of those combinations.

Now, if that stops working, if you now go to this other therapy, you go back to the CAR T cell, that will suggest that the results are not that different. So I think that there are aspects that we don’t fully understand. I personally believe, based on what I’ve seen, based on what I know from treating thousands of patients with myeloma for almost 30 years I’ve been a doctor, I think time is probably very, very important. So if you go back to back from one therapy to the other, that’s less likely to be beneficial. If you go from one therapy, and it stops working and go to the other drug with the same target.

But I would say it’s not that different from how we think about IMiDs or proteasome inhibitors. If you were to go single drug with a proteasome inhibitor and you switch to single drug with another proteasome inhibitor, or the same thing with an IMiD, that’s less likely to work versus if you went to something else in between. So we just need to generate more data and learn. Lastly, I want to say that in my experience, from all I see in my clinic at the current time, I think the choice that patients make is based on personal preference and to some degree also the situation of the patient. I saw a patient yesterday, 50 years old, who came from another country and has relocated to us here in Miami and asked, what are the options?

And we talked about CAR T cells, we talked about bispecifics. And considering all the different factors that CAR T cell would imply that we had to give some other combination therapy for two or three cycles while we harvest the CAR T cells and manufacture the CAR T cells and then plan for the admission and give it, and also that the patient was not really very happy about the side effects in the hospital with CAR T cell. That patient shows the bispecific, but I’ve also seen other patients in the same situation saying, I’d rather do these different steps for two or three months, I stay in the hospital, and then I enjoy being off therapy.

Actually, I saw another patient just a few days ago, a gentleman in his upper 70s who we had the same conversation, and he had picked the CAR T cells. And I saw him with his wife and he has been off treatment for two years doing excellent. So different patients make different decisions. And I think that is just how the field is evolving. So I think we should be open to individual patient’s priorities and what they want, and we should just offer everything. And of course, we can guide if a patient wants us to give direction, but I think presenting it and let patients be part of the decision-making, that’s the future of how medicine should be practiced.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you so much for that explanation. I’m going to segue into a comment that I always make to myeloma patients. As Dr. Landgren was explaining all of these treatment options, he is on top of all the latest and greatest news and therapies. I always recommend to myeloma patients newly diagnosed or otherwise to seek out at least one consult from a specialist. If you have difficulty accessing care, then a lot of places can do video conferencing, but even that one consult to see a myeloma specialist is so important in your care and treatment options. So I’ll just throw that out there, Dr. Landgren, as a myeloma specialist that you are, we appreciate your expertise in explaining that so well.

Dr. Ola Landgren:

I agree 100 percent with what you said, and I would like to add to that and say, going to a specialist center and it doesn’t have to be here, can really really help. It can be a lot of small things. There is data indicating that survival is longer for patients who have access to specialists. That has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The Mayo Clinic has published that, I think it was more than one year longer survival.

That by itself is, of course, very strong, but I also think that there are a lot of the small things like the different types of pre-medications, the drugs that are given around myeloma drugs. Could you decrease the dose of some of these drugs like the dexamethasone? Could you get rid of Benadryl if you give the antibodies? These may look as small things, but they can make a huge difference for quality of life.

We have a lot of people coming for second opinions, and we always say if you live closer to someone that you trust, you should go back and be treated there. You can always reach out to us. We are happy to be involved. You have us as a backup. We can be your quarterback if you ever need us. I think that is absolutely the best advice for every patient. Go and get feedback and if you’re not sure about the feedback you get, you could always have two different quarterbacks and you could ask them. I don’t think having 10 or 20 is going to help, but having one or two second opinions, I think is a good decision.

Lisa Hatfield:

That’s really helpful information, thank you, Dr. Landgren. So I think we’re going to shift a little bit to managing and monitoring multiple myeloma. Once you’ve had a patient go through the induction therapy, what kind of monitoring do you complete for your myeloma patients and in particular those who have reached a certain level response and are maybe on maintenance or continuous therapy, what type of tests do you do and how often regarding labs, imaging, bone marrow biopsies?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

There are a lot of different ways, obviously, of practicing medicine. So every center has developed models that they feel very comfortable doing. So I like details. I like to know things. I like to check things. I’m not excessive in ordering invasive tests, but I like to know. Also, I like to make sure the patient not only has good long-term clinical outcomes, but also good quality of life. And to me, I try to minimize the intrusiveness of what we do. So, for example, if I give a combination therapy where there is an injection or infusion, say week one, week two, week three, and then there is a week off. I recognize that if you do labs during that week off, you will have a better yield and understanding of how these three different injections or infusions actually have moved the disease forward and suppressed the disease.

But in my mind, I think that week off is a very important week off for the patient. So I would rather do testing the third day of the treatment at the treatment unit. So if it’s week one, week two, week three, I would draw the myeloma labs that same day. And that would give the patient six more days off from injection, infusion that third week and the whole fourth week off. So I would give the patient 13 days off.

Again, these are small things. These are things I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve practiced medicine for many years and I recognize that having time off like that, many patients travel, they go on vacation, they do different things. So I don’t want to just randomly put a blood test in the fourth week just because I want to check after week one, two, three, and then have the assessment.

I sort of underestimate the benefit of the therapy and then I start the next cycle, say back to back cycle two and cycle three and so forth. I would typically do blood tests once a month following these principles. I do baseline and I would do the last day of injection or infusion. For a newly diagnosed patient, you ask me, I would for baseline always do bone marrow biopsy and an aspirate. I would always do a PET-CT for every patient as my default. Sometimes we end up doing MRI. So that could be other things that are happening, but that is what we do for the majority of our patients.

After we have completed four to six cycles of treatment for patients that are candidates for consideration of transplant with chemotherapy with melphalan (Alkeran), we would usually do a biopsy after four to six cycles and we would use that to determine what’s the optimal mobilization protocol for stem cells. When we do that, we would run a MRD test.

We would run our in-house flow cytometry test that we developed when I used to work at Sloan Kettering and we have developed that here in Miami as well. We work closely with Sloan Kettering, and we have set up this assay in collaboration in the new 2.0 version. We will also send the aspirate for the clonoSEQ at Adaptive Biotech, which is the DNA-based sequencing for MRD. We would send the patient for collection of stem cells.

When the patient is back, we will continue treating. So if you say we do it after four cycles, we would collect, if we do it after five or six, then we collect. After that, we would typically resume therapy and for the majority of our patients, we actually give around eight cycles of therapy, and we have seen that you can deepen the response. You don’t increase the toxicity, but you deepen the response for the vast, vast majority of our patients. When we have used our best therapies, we have done it that way…

We have even published on this, over 70 percent of our patients are MRD negative, and many of those patients, when they come to cycle eight, they ask, do I have to do the transplant? And that is a controversial topic. But I think there are two large randomized trials that have shown the same thing, that there is no survival benefit with transplant. But you can also say that there is, in those two trials, a progression free survival benefit, meaning that the disease would stay way longer with transplant.

But many patients say, if I reach MRD-negative, both those two trials show that if you’re MRD-negative without transplant, or you’re MRD-negative with the transplant, PFS was actually the same. And given that there is no survival, overall survival benefit, why would I subject myself to go to that? Why don’t I keep the cells in the freezer and go right to maintenance? And we will have a conversation with every patient, they would meet our transplant team, they would meet our myeloma expert team.

And the individual patient will make decisions. I think over time, more and more patients have chosen to keep the cells in the freezer. For patients that are MRD-positive, we would counsel towards transplant, but there are patients that don’t want to do that, and we are not forcing any patients to do that. We would give patient maintenance, and on some of our trials, we use the standard of care, which is lenalidomide maintenance.

And we are also developing new approaches where we have done daratumumab added once a month with lenalidomide. We have gone one year, and we have started to do two years of that. And after that, we would stop daratumumab and just do lenalidomide maintenance. Lastly, to answer your question fully here, we would do a PET-CT in the bone marrow after the eight cycles as a repeat, and we would offer a patient to check on maintenance on an annual basis, and this is in accord with the NCCN guidelines. So a lot of details here, but you asked me how we do testing.

Lisa Hatfield:

Yes. And one of the questions that comes up, too, regarding bone marrow biopsy, so you talked about patients kind of through the process of myeloma treatment, perhaps they’ve reached a point where they’re going to be for a while. Do you see a need for continued bone marrow biopsy, say, annually, or is there some benefit to using the newer tests that are being investigated, like mass spec testing and some of the newer ones, I think the EuroFlow? Do you think that that can be used to test for bone marrow biopsy? And how will that be used to monitor the myeloma if a patient is doing relatively well, or do you still like to do bone marrow biopsies on a regular basis? And I know every specialist is different in how they’ll answer that question.

Dr. Ola Landgren:

So what’s known in the literature is that there is no study that definitively has compared annual biopsies with these blood-based tests that you mentioned, showing that they can replace the bone marrow. Those tests or those studies have not yet been published and shown in a convincing way that we have done. This is how it is. It’s still an open question. We don’t know the answer for sure. So our take has been to offer patients to repeat it on an annual basis for maybe two or three and sometimes up to five years. I don’t think we would do biopsies every year for five, 10, 15 or more years. At some point, you have to ask yourself, what are we trying to chase here?

But I think the data we’re looking at that we have published on this and others have also show that if you are MRD-negative after completion of the eight cycles with or without the transplant, the patient that are MRD-negative one year later, they are more likely to be free from progression 10 years later, compared to the ones where you only check once and you don’t know what happened one year later. And that is frankly because there is a small group of patients where MRD-negative could bounce back into positive.

So to check after completion after eight cycles and to check after one more year on maintenance, I think gives us more confidence in thinking about if we eventually could step down and maybe even stop the maintenance at the long term. There is no study that definitively has proven that, but the data suggests that being negative after eight and do another year and even if you do two years out, those are very strong indicators that the disease will stay away long term.

So that’s our justification for offering it, but we would never force any patient. And I also want to say that we have thought about for a long time, how we can contribute to the field and how we can advance the field for blood-based tests. So we are here in Miami, developing a lot of these technologies, and I have made a promise that we will make all these available for all patients that come here to Miami as part of our standard workup. Because they are not clinically validated tests, they will have to be reported for now as research tests, but we will share the information with individual patients.

So we have three different platforms for now. And we are working on the fourth one. So one of them is the mass spec with MALDI, where we can screen the blood with lasers. And we can increase the sensitivity by maybe hundred times compared to existing immunofixation assays. The second is something called clonotypic peptides, which is a more sophisticated way to run mass spec, which is probably up to thousand times more sensitive than immunofixation. And the third technology we are doing or setting up right now is circulating cells that we sequence.

And this is the Menarini technology that is approved for certain other solid tumors. I think for GI malignancies, it’s FDA cleared, but we are doing it in myeloma. We are also looking for free circulating DNA. We’re working with New York Genome Center to set those types of assays up. So my thinking is, if we can offer every patient that come here to do it, and many of those patients will do an annual biopsy, we actually will have the database that can answer the question you asked me, if it can replace. There is no other way that this can ever be answered.

But having a large database, we actually can compare on a patient level, how the bone marrow biopsy with flow cytometry and sequencing, how that behaves in relation to the blood base. How does it perform? Is any of these better? Can they replace each other? So I think if we do this for one or two years, we will have the answer to the question. That’s why I want to do it.

Lisa Hatifeld:

So that kind of leads to the next question that is really an exciting area. I know it’s not necessarily new, but newer is artificial intelligence.  And I know I was reading an article about one of, that you and your colleagues have worked on a newer project and I don’t know if you pronounce it IRMMa or not, but using these large databases to help predict I think, it’s the response of treatment in some patients. So can you talk about that a little bit and tell us about that development and what developments are exciting with artificial intelligence in cancer, in particular myeloma?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

Yeah. So you mentioned the study we just published. We published a model that we call IRMMa and that stands for individual risk prediction for patients with multiple myeloma. So what we were thinking was at the current time, all the existing models are pretty much providing the average patient’s predicted outcome. So think about it is like it’s a probability measure. So you say, if I take this about therapy, what’s the predicted average outcome for patients that take this therapy, say, five years later? So on average, say 70 percent of patients are free from progression. That sounds pretty good. The problem is that you don’t know if you are in the group, 70 percent group that didn’t progress or if you’re in the 30 percent that did progress.

So where are you as an individual? So it’s almost like looking at the weather app on your phone. If it says it’s a 70 percent probability of sunshine and then you go outside and it’s raining, it’s because it didn’t say that it’s 100 percent probability of sunshine. So if you think about another situation would be, say, in a GYN clinic, if a woman were to come and ask the doctor, am I pregnant? Yes or no? You couldn’t say it’s 70 percent probability. You would say, yes, you’re pregnant or not pregnant.

So for myeloma, we have for a long time been living in these weather report systems where we say 70 percent or 30 percent. And we want to go in the other direction of the pregnancy test, where we actually can say for someone with this particular disease profile, with this treatment, this is where this is going to take us. We worked on this project for almost four years and we worked with a lot of other groups around the world that have a lot of data. And they have graciously agreed to collaborate with us and share their data sets. The beauty with this collaboration, there are many beauties of it, but one of them is that people don’t treat patients the same way.

And that actually has allowed us to say for patients that have a particular biological or genomic makeup, if you’re treated this way or that way or the other way or a fourth way and so forth, which of these different treatments would make patients have the longest progression and overall survival? So if you have a large database, you can actually ask those questions. So you can say that you profile individual patients in full detail and you put them in detailed buckets instead of grouping everybody together.

And now if you add a new case, if a new patient is being added and you say, which bucket would this individual fit? Well, this is the right biological bucket. You can then use this database to say out of all the different treatment options, which treatment option would last the longest, which would give the best overall survival? Other questions you could ask is also, for example, you have a patient with a certain biological workup or makeup. And you say, if I treat with these drugs, will the addition of, say, transplant, will that prolong progression for his survival?

And you can go into the database and the computer will then say, I have these many patients that have this genomic makeup and these many people that were treated with this treatment with transplant versus the same treatment without transplant. There was no difference in their progression or overall survival. So then the computer would say, it doesn’t add any clinical benefit, but there could be another makeup where the answer is opposite, but transplant actually would provide longer progression for his survival. I think the whole field of medicine is probably going to go more and more in this direction. So what we want to do is to expand the number of cases.

So we are asking other groups around the world, if they have data sets with thousands of patients, they could be added to this database and we could then have more and more detailed information on sub types of disease and more and more treatment. So it will be better as we train it with larger data sets. The model is built as an open interface so we can import new data. And that’s also important because the treatments will continue to change. So we, for example, say I have a patient that has this genetic makeup. I was thinking of using a bispecific antibody for the newly diagnosed setting.

How is that going to work? The computer will say, I don’t know, because we don’t have any patients like that in the database because that’s not the data, type of data that currently exists from larger studies. But let’s say in the future, if there were datasets like that, you could ask the computer and the computer will tell you what the database finds as the answer. But if you go for another combination, if that’s in the database, it would answer that too. That is where I think the field is going.

And lastly, I would say we are also using these types of technologies to evaluate the biopsies, the material. We work with the HealthTree Foundation on a large project where we are trying to use computational models to get out a lot of the biological data out of the biopsies and also to predict outcomes. So I think artificial intelligence is going to come in so many different areas in the myeloma field and probably in many, many other fields in medicine.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you so much, Dr. Landgren, for that broad overview of myeloma, especially relapsed and refractory myeloma. So it’s that time now where we answer questions we’ve received from you. Please remember that this is not a substitute for medical care. Always consult with your medical team. And we’re going to jump right into some questions that we’ve received from patients, Dr. Landgren, if you have a little bit of time to answer these questions for us.

Dr. Ola Landgren:

Of course.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. So broad questions. We try to make them broad so they apply to most people, but this patient is asking Dr. Landgren, what are the key biological processes driving disease, progression and evolution of multiple myeloma, and how can we target these processes to prevent disease relapse and improve long-term outcome?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

So that’s a very good question. So I think in a nutshell if you use genomics, which refers to the genetic changes that you can see in the plasma cells, there are certain features that the myeloma cells have. They have the copy number changes, that’s the gains and losses of chromosomes. You can find these if you do FISH and cytogenetics could be, for example, gain of chromosome 5 or gain of chromosome 7 or gain of chromosome 11. That would be part of the Hyperdiploidy disease, or you have loss of chromosome 13 or 13q deletions. We also refer to 17p deletion. These are copy number changes, they’re extra or loss of these chromosomes. But then you have also the structural variance where you have the translocations of chromosome 14, chromosome 14 harbors the IGH locus, which regulates the making of immunoglobulins.

Plasma cells make immunoglobulins. For reasons that are not entirely clear. The translocations in myeloma that include IgH, they are partnering up with oncogenes. There is a list of oncogenes, there’s MATH, there’s three MATHs, A, B, C. There’s FGFR3, MMSET, and there’s also Cyclin D1 that are on the list. So these are the different types of structural variants that you can see with FISH probes.

What people have understood less about are something called mutational signatures. And myeloma is made up by eight distinct mutational signatures that you can see in every single patient. And what that means is that you can, if you conduct whole genome sequencing and you look at all the base pairs, you can see there are certain number of combinations. C can be swapped for A and C can be swapped for G or C can be swapped for T, T can be A and T can be C and T can also be G.

Those are the combinations. So there are four different base pairs, but if you, because the DNA is double stranded, these are the only possibilities that mathematically that you can see. Now if you look for every base pair and you look on one base pair on the left and one on the right, we call that 5 and 3 prime, you look through triplicates, every of these base pairs can have these different swaps I mentioned. Mathematically, there are 96 different combinations that you can come up with. That’s it.

If you don’t go through the entire genome from left to right, you see that there are these recurrent eight signatures that are there in every patient. So although we don’t understand why they are and exactly how they function, the fact that you see them in every patient tells us that this has to have something to do with the biology of the disease. It must have a role in the control of the disease. We are starting to see that there is one signature that’s called APOBEC. That signature seems to be very important for resistance to treatments. And you can see that APOBEC can be more or less expressed.

And if APOBEC is very expressed, we see that there are lot of mutations in the cells. We have seen in patients with the chemotherapy that APOBEC can be very expressed. When we treat with four drug combinations, it can be very expressed. And what I’m saying, when I say it can be expressed, these are in the patients that relapse out of these therapies. We have also seen that in CAR T cells and bispecifics. So that makes me believe and our group believe that the cells use some form of what we call tumor intrinsic defense mechanism to protect themselves from whatever therapy we use.

It doesn’t matter if it’s immunotherapy, chemotherapy or small molecule therapy, there are some fundamental programs the cells can turn on. We need to understand that better and we are spending a lot of time trying to drill into this.

Lastly, I also want to say there was a fourth class of genomic events called complex events that you can see in myeloma, something called chromothripsis. That’s a very severe genomic lesion, is a ripple effect through the genome. There are a lot of havoc going on. And the first time we saw that, we thought this has to be something wrong with this sample. But when we look through more and more samples, we see that about a quarter of the patients actually have this chromothripsis.

So the bottom line is, it’s time to stop doing FISH, it’s time to do more advanced sequencing, ideally whole genome sequencing, but a step towards a whole genome could be to do whole exome sequencing. But there are companies saying that you can do whole genome sequencing for $1 in the future. So that’s really what needs to happen. We need to have better tools to better understand and then we can use this to better understand how to differentiate the therapy and have an individualized treatment. That’s what I talked about with the IRMA model.

Lisa Hatfield:

All right, well, thank you so much for that explanation. Dr. Landgren, can you speak to the advantages that bispecific antibodies offer over traditional therapies and how do you see their role in overcoming treatment resistance?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

Well, the bispecific antibodies is a novel way of engaging the immune system to go after the myeloma. So if you think about the other antibodies we have, we have three other antibodies. We have daratumumab, we have isatuximab (Sarclisa), we have elotuzumab (Empliciti), they are naked antibodies. They bind to the myeloma and on the backend of these antibodies, there is something called the FC receptor that attracts cells, NK cells, for example, also T cells, and they also attract, some of these antibodies also attract complement and they also by themselves send what’s called a death signal into the myeloma cell.

The bispecific antibodies are very different. They bind and they don’t send death signals, they don’t engage with the complement. What they do is that they have another arm sticking out that binds to the T cells. That’s a CD3 arm and there’s an open pocket. So when a T cell passes by, it grabs the T cell. And now you have a T cell linked to the antibody sitting next to the myeloma cell and the T cell will kill the myeloma. T cells can be very aggressive and kill the myeloma. You just hold them together, it’s like a matchmaker.

And if you think about how CAR T-cell therapy is designed, you take out the T cells, you manufacture them to have a special antenna receptor on their surface, and then you give them back again. And then they bind, this receptor binds to myeloma cells. So in the setting of a CAR T-cell therapy, the T-cell sits next to the myeloma cell, but that’s because the T cells were taken out of the body, manufactured to have this receptor that then finds the myeloma cell. But the bispecific antibody, that they don’t require the T cells to be taken out, to be modified this way.

You just use your existing T-cells in your body and these antibody just binds to the T cells and the myeloma cells in the body. So it’s sort of a little bit mimics what the CAR T cells do, but it does it in its own way within the cell, within the tissue in the body. You asked me for resistance mechanism and how they are better. Well, I think the best answer I can give you is to say that the overall response rate for the bispecific antibodies are very high. They are 60 to 80 percent single drug compared to the current trials. And if you look and see the trials that have led to approval for the other existing drugs, they were 20 or 30 percent.

So the overall response rate is much higher for the bispecifics than they were for the other existing drugs. We don’t really know exactly how to use them, I would say. What’s the optimal dosing schedule? We give them weekly, it may be every other week, and maybe monthly, eventually, I would think. And should they be combined with which drugs? That’s ongoing investigation. Other questions are, can they be stopped? Can you monitor patients off therapy for a long time? Will some patients never have the disease coming back? We hope so, but we don’t know. Or would it be patients could be off therapy for a long time, like with CAR T cell? Could that happen with the bispecifics? It’s possible.

And if you were to monitor with blood-based tests and you see that there is reappearing disease, would you then put patients back on the therapy? These are questions we…there are a lot of questions, we don’t have answers to all these, but that’s where I think the field is going. A lot of people, including us, are trying to investigate this.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay, thank you. And we have a number of questions about MRD testing, so I’m going to try to combine those all together. Basically, what the questions are asking is how do you interpret MRD testing with regard to prognosis, treatment response, and maybe even like treatment, ongoing treatment? How do you use those results in your clinic or any comments you might have on the MRD test?

Dr. Ola Landgren:

So MRD tests have been around for quite some time. We have been pioneers pushing it. We have worked on it for over 15 years. We worked with the FDA to see if MRD could eventually become an endpoint for drug approval, that’s work in progress. The FDA will make those decisions. There are a lot of trials that use MRD as a secondary endpoint to see how it correlates with progression-free survival. And there actually are some trials that have been using it as a cool primary or primary endpoint in the absence of FDA’s decision to accept it. But that is probably going to change in the future. We will see.  What have we done in the clinic? Well, we have used it in the same way as we have done with PET-CTs and the regular blood work. So if you use SPEP IFE light chains and you see there is residual disease after you have delivered your planned treatment, people have used what’s called consolidation therapy.

So we have done the same with the MRD test. If there is someone who has a little bit of disease left, we have tried to see if we could make that patient MRD-negative. We have also used it as a tool to build more reassurance. I mentioned before for patients who get this new combination therapies, if they are not very keen on jumping right to chemotherapy with Melphalan and transplant, if they want to collect the cells and keep them in the freezer, using the MRD as a tool to guide for reassurance.

Looking at the randomized trial showing that MRD negativity with or without transplant seems to have the same progression-free survival and in the absence of overall survival, either way, that has been published. But we would always say to patients, there are no definitive studies that have shown that this is how it is. It’s still an area of investigation. So if a patient wants to sort of do everything by the traditional book, we would give every step in the therapy and not pay attention. But a lot of patients say, I would rather monitor, and if I have to do these more toxic therapies, I wouldn’t do it. But I will use MRD to build confidence in myself.

Lisa Hatfield:

Well, thank you so much, Dr. Landgren, these have been great questions, and I actually have another half sheet of questions that we don’t have time for, because that’s all the time that we have. Dr. Landgren, thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure talking with you today. So thank you for joining our Patient Empowerment Network START HERE program. This has been an excellent discussion. Thanks to all of you, for your questions and tuning in. My name is Lisa Hatfield. I’ll see you next time.

Dr. Ola Landgren:

Thank you very much for having me. Thank you.

PODCAST | Evolving Myeloma Treatment Options: How You Can Access Cutting-Edge Care

 

 

With the quickly evolving landscape of myeloma treatment and care, it’s important to work with your healthcare team to determine a care plan. In this program, Dr. Omar Nadeem discusses the latest updates in research and clinical trials, the role of new and emerging therapies– including bispecific antibodies and CAR T-cell therapy–and shares advice for accessing quality myeloma care.

Dr. Omar Nadeem is the Clinical Director of the Myeloma Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program and Associate Director of the Multiple Myeloma Clinical Research Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Nadeem.

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See More from Evolve Myeloma

Transcript:

Katherine:

Hello, and welcome. I’m your host, Katherine Banwell. As patients collaborate on treatment decisions with their healthcare team, it’s important that they understand all of their options and how these options may be impacted by research developments. That’s why the Patient Empowerment Network created the Evolve series, to arm you with the latest information and help you feel empowered and confident during conversations about your myeloma care.  

In today’s program, we’re going to hear from an expert in the field about the evolving treatment landscape and discuss how you can play an active role in your care. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what may be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining us is Dr. Omar Nadeem. Dr. Nadeem, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself.  

Dr. Nadeem:

Thank you. Hi, everyone. My name is Omar Nadeem from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It’s my pleasure to be here.  

Katherine:

Thank you so much for joining us today. Before we get into our discussion, would you share with the audience how the field of myeloma care has changed over the course of your career?   

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, and things are changing so rapidly. My career started after my training in 2015 and at that time, daratumumab (Darzalex) just had its approval in relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. That, along with several other monoclonal antibodies a few immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors.  

At that time, it felt like myeloma was at the forefront of significant advances and change in practice, which it was. Little did we know that we were right around the corner with the next renaissance of myeloma therapy, which is these immunotherapies that have been approved over the last three to four years now. So, safe to say things are changing so, so fast and it’s leading to excellent outcomes for patients.  

Katherine:

Yeah, it’s great news. So positive. I’d like to start with the importance of a patient’s healthcare team. What are the benefits to seeking care with a myeloma specialist, even if it’s just for a second opinion or a consult? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, so, myeloma is a little less than 2 percent of all cancers, and it’s the second most common blood cancer, so certainly not rare. With that being said, if you go to a general community practice, they don’t typically see too, too many patients with this disease. So, alongside that, we have so many different treatment options and combinations and these, as I mentioned, immune therapies.  

And other therapies that are only actually carried out at academic centers for now, such as stem cell transplants, and CAR T-cell therapy. I think it’s important to kind of meet with an academic provider just to get a sense of what the patient may be facing, both in that immediate time, but also in the future, because a lot of myeloma therapy is lifelong. And in that case, you do have to come up with a plan for your whole treatment in a way early. So, it’s important to kind of one: hear it from another person, and then two: really sort of figure out what the outlook would look like for the individual patient.  

With that being said, many of our myeloma regimens that are approved can very easily be given at the local provider, and that’s usually our preference, for patients to be treated closer to home. So, ultimately, this is another way for patients to get input about their treatment program, but also talk about the future.   

Katherine:

That makes sense. Specialists at academic medical centers are typically more involved in research and clinical trials. 

And patient participation is essential to advancing medicine. So, how do clinical trials impact myeloma care? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Well, everything that we have available today for myeloma therapy was once in a clinical trial. So, all these promising therapies usually start in early phase studies and move on to Phase II and Phase III studies, and then those are the ones that the FDA uses to approve a particular combination.  

So, it all depends on kind of where someone is in their disease course. It also kind of depends on what their preferences may be in terms of taking on something that is beyond standard of care. So, as part of any clinical trial in whatever phase it may be, whether its newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, even smoldering myeloma, which is one step before that, relapsed/refractory myeloma.

At each step of the way, there are clinical trials that are there trying to improve upon what’s already out here, right? So, we are, despite all these amazing advances, unfortunately, the disease is still not curable for a vast majority of patients.  

In that case, how do we move to that cure, or how do we kind of advance the disease even beyond this? And a clinical trial is a way to do that.  

Katherine:

What type of patient is most appropriate for a clinical trial? 

Dr. Nadeem:

So, there are criteria that each clinical trial uses in terms of eligibility. Some of that has to do with the disease characteristic itself, kind of where somebody is in their disease course, but many times it’s also patients’ fitness, organ status in terms of kidney function, their blood count to some extent, heart function, etcetera. There are some sort of minimal prerequisite guidelines that we have to enroll patients in trials. So, it really, again, depends on where somebody is in their disease course and what they may be willing to take on beyond what may be offered to them as part of standard of care.  

Katherine:

What questions should patients be asking if they’re entrusted in participating in a clinical trial? 

Dr. Nadeem:

I think the important thing is to sort of first recognize what’s available to them as part of standard of care and then what the clinical trial is trying to answer.  

So, for example, if it’s newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, we now have quadruplet regimens that we give to patients at the time of their diagnosis, and then the next natural question for eligible patients that now comes up is whether they should do a stem cell transplant or not.  

And alongside that goes with all these advances in immune therapies, such as CAR T-cell therapies and bispecific antibodies. And there are now trials looking at those therapies and comparing them, for example, to stem cell transplant to try to answer the question “Can we get even beyond something like a stem cell transplant?” 

So, that’s one example of a trial where a patient may be interested in saying “Okay, well, a transplant may be my standard path, but what if I try to enroll in this study and get randomized, for example, to the CAR-T arm? Then, perhaps, I’m getting access to some of these therapies early and maybe that’s going to improve my outcomes.” 

Katherine:

Well, I’d like to talk about some new and emerging therapies in myeloma, starting with CAR T-cell therapy. Can you talk about who this treatment option might be appropriate for? 

Dr. Nadeem:

So, yeah, just to kind of give folks background, CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy, where we take out an individual’s T-cells and then re-program them, essentially, to recognize myeloma cells. Right now there’s two approved CAR-T products for multiple myeloma, both in the relapse refractory setting. It’s really for patients that have had four or more lines of therapy.  

So, that’s a lot of different combinations that we currently have available. Those therapies stop working before patients are actually eligible for CAR-T cells at the moment. Both of these CAR T-cell products have been gamechangers in terms of improving prognosis for patients.  

The good thing about CAR-T cells is that it is a one-and-done treatment. So, patients, when they go through that initial phase of therapy, they are then off therapy, although we are now starting to study certain therapies that we may administer after CAR-T cells to get them to last even longer than they currently do, but that’s still in, for example, that’s one of the clinical trials or many of the clinical trials that are currently ongoing now, to try to answer that question.   

So, a lot of patients can be eligible for CAR-T cells. They have to have the prerequisite amount of therapies. Again, there are some sort of baseline fitness characteristics that we look at for patient’s ability to tolerate it. But as a whole, I consider CAR T-cell therapy more broadly applicable to myeloma patients than compared to, let’s say, a stem cell transplant.   

Katherine:

How has this therapy revolutionized myeloma care? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, before the first approval, now a few years ago, in this space we didn’t really have anything like this to offer patients. So, many of the combinations and other compounds that were in clinical trials would have a response rate somewhere around, let’s say, 30 percent. So, 30 percent of patients may respond to that therapy in that space, and that may only last a few months, and that was considered successful not that long ago. Now, with CAR T-cell therapy and bispecific antibodies, these therapies are highly efficacious.  

You see response rates of 70 to 100 percent in some of these immunotherapies, and what that’s translating into is patient’s disease staying away for a year or two years, even three years in some of these clinical trials. And again, this is completely unprecedented compared to what we had before.   

Katherine:

I understand that there are a number of clinical trials for different types of CAR T, or even using it earlier in the disease. Can you share updates in CAR T-cell therapy research? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, so, exactly as you pointed out, there have been trials already, actually, that have been completed, Phase III studies looking at CAR T-cell therapies in earlier relapses.  So, patients that have had either one of two lines of therapy. 

Both our CAR-T therapies have been compared to standard of care in that space and have shown superiority, and this is something that we all have been kind of waiting for to see if you deploy it earlier, perhaps you’re going to see even greater benefit, and that seems to be the case in some of these trials, and now we’re awaiting, hopefully, approval of some of these CAR T-cell therapies to be administered earlier because in fifth line, it’s very different than treating patients in second or third line, which I think will really vastly improve our ability to deliver this therapy to many patients, as it can be quite challenging for patients that are in fifth line, to allow them to go through the process of CAR-T cells and then having them be administered.  

I was looking at it head-to-head with stem cell transplant, as I mentioned before, and this is in the context of quadruplet and induction therapy followed by either CAR-T cells or stem cell transplant, and then followed by maintenance therapy. So, really trying to see if I can overcome what we typically have achieved with stem cell transplantation. 

We also are doing some studies even before that. So, patients, again, in high-risk smoldering myeloma, which we know have an increased risk of developing newly diagnosed disease in the next few years, perhaps that could be the time where we can give some of these immunotherapies, and that’s some work that we have going on at our center. 

Katherine:

Well, another therapy that has emerged in myeloma is bispecific antibodies. What patient type is this therapy right for? 

Dr. Nadeem:

So, bispecific antibodies are great because they’re off the shelf. What that means is that CAR-T cells, we first have to collect the T cells and we then have to send them off to be manufactured, and that manufacturing process can take up to a month, sometimes even longer, for some of the current available CAR-T products. And then, after the cells are returned to the facility, we then give usually three days of chemotherapy to try to suppress some of the immune systems of the patients. So, that way, when the cells are administered, they can expand robustly and do essentially what they need to do. 

So, that whole logistical process can take a couple of months by the time you identify somebody for CAR-T cells and then, from that moment until they can actually be treated. With bispecific antibodies, if we think somebody’s ready to go, you can basically get it as soon as we can have somebody ready to go either in our clinic or on the in-patient facility. So, they’re much easier. They also utilize T cells to attack myeloma cells. We now have three approved bispecific antibodies. Two of them are targeting BCMA, the same exact target that we have in CAR-T cells, and one of them is now targeting a new target called GPRC5D, which is also highly expressed on myeloma cells.  

So, having all these bispecific antibodies available is excellent because patients can have access to them a lot faster and now we’re trying to answer the question of sequencing. Can you give bispecific antibodies after CAR-T cells for example? Can you give one bispecific antibody after another, especially if there’s a different target that we now have available? 

As a whole, though, bispecific antibodies tend to have lower response rates than CAR-T cells, particularly Cilta-cel (Carvykti), which is cilta-cel that has a very high response rate of close to 100 percent.  

Most bispecific antibodies have response rates somewhere around 70 or so percent, so about two-thirds of patients respond to these therapies, again, in that fifth line or four or more lines of therapy. So, in that space, that’s the response rate. And across the board, generally speaking, patients benefit from these bispecific antibodies approximately a year on average. Some of the studies have shown longer benefit, and it also depends somewhat on response to therapy.  

Patients that have a really deep response can go even way longer than that. So, it is quite mixed in terms of how somebody may do on these bispecific antibodies, but those are the numbers.  

Katherine:

Well, it sounds like bispecific antibodies have really transformed myeloma treatment options.  

Dr. Nadeem:

Absolutely, and what goes hand in hand in this.  

I mentioned the logistics of CAR T, but then there’s also the supply and availability of CAR-T cells. Since the approval, the demand for CAR-T cells has been very high because of all these excellent results, but the supply really hasn’t been there. So, even at a center as busy as ours, we can only treat a handful of patients with CAR T-cell therapies compared to bispecific antibodies, where that is essentially an injection similar to many other approved myeloma agents that you can just readily treat patients with. So, CAR-T cells, while I think, again, have higher efficacy, with that comes slightly higher toxicity as well. It’s a very different kind of treatment program.  

And then, patients get a treatment-free interval, which you don’t see yet with bispecific antibodies. On the other hand, bispecific antibodies are readily available, slightly lower response rates, slightly lower toxicity when it comes to at least the traditional T-cell directing toxicities. And then you have, again, the readily available nature of it, which I think is hugely beneficial for patients.  

Katherine:

You talked about some specifics regarding bispecific antibodies, but are there updates in bispecific antibody research that you’d like to share? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, so, again, kind of following the theme of what we just said about CAR-T cells, can you bring these antibody therapies earlier? And there’s ongoing trials now looking at it in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma and early relapses, and then we presented our data at ASH this previous year looking at it in high-risk smoldering myeloma. We treated patients with teclistimab (Tecvayli), which is a BCMA bispecific antibody that is approved for relapse refractory patients. And what we demonstrated in that study is that people that got Teclistimab had a 100 percent response rate with an MRD-negative rate. So, kind of as deep of a response as we can measure, also at 100 percent.  

So, this is something that we had not seen before. When their immune systems are a lot healthier, they may benefit more. So, hopefully we’ll see confirmation of these results in other trials.  

Particularly in the newly diagnosed space because we do think that these antibody therapies have such huge potential to treat patients, and then hopefully we’ll have durable responses. So, I do think that some of this paradigm may shift over the next few years, and then there’s also combinations that are currently being studied: combinations with traditional myeloma therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, other immunomodulatory agents, or proteasome inhibitors. All these combination trials are now ongoing to see can you improve upon some of those numbers that I highlighted before with single-agent bispecific antibody therapy. 

Katherine:

Oh, I was just going to ask you the next question, which is are there other emerging myeloma therapies that are showing promise? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yes. So, I think over the last few years, most of the buzz has been with these immunotherapies. And, again, more work to be done there to see whether combinations, different schedules, different targets, different types, will show more and more benefit in each of these myeloma disease settings.  

But we also have simultaneous development of other agents that are not in this sort of immunotherapy T-cell redirecting therapy realm. We have newer versions of our classic immunomodulatory drugs, such as lenalidomide (Revlimid) or pomalidomide (Pomalyst).  

We now have their next generation agents, called CELMoD drugs and there’s two of them in development. One of them is called iberdomide; one is called mezigdomide.  

These are, again, kind of building up on the success of some of these previous therapies that are kind of cornerstone therapies for myeloma patients and because these are essentially better agents, they’re more targeted, and they also have greater response rates as single agents and as combinations.  

We’re hoping that these would be approved in the not-so-distant future and then perhaps will replace some of these immunomodulatory drugs that we have currently utilized in newly diagnosed and relapsed myeloma. Essentially what this means is things are just getting better and better and better as we get newer versions of some of these therapies. So, those are, I would say, kind of next in line in terms of hopeful approvals.  

And then we’ll add to some of the options that we have for myeloma patients.  

Katherine:

How can patients and care partners stay informed about the latest myeloma research? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, it’s a lot of moving parts all the time. From one six-month interval to the next, you tend to have nowadays perhaps some drug approvals, which is amazing, but if not updates of all these sort of combination trials, etcetera, of where these things are going. I think kind of talking to your physician, obviously, about some of these updates is really critical. As I mentioned before, having a roadmap in your mind about what the myeloma therapy for you might look like going forward, wherever you are in your disease state, is always important because it gives you time to sort of think about it, learn about it, prepare for it.  

Some of these therapies really require an effort from the patient and their caregivers because, for example, for CAR-T cells. If you’re not near a center, you may have to relocate for a month.  

And it’s very difficult, and we fully understand that and try to help as much as we can, but that’s the kind of commitment that it takes. So, talking to your physician, obviously content like this, reviewing this as much as you can. Online patient support groups are great because you learn from the other patients’ experiences. So, the good news now is we have so many channels of communication, but you have to in a way, in the end, discuss with your physician and verify things you may find on your own.   

Katherine:

Exactly, yeah. You want to make sure you’re getting facts rather than fiction.  

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah. That’s right.  

Katherine:

Well, Dr. Nadeem, we’ve been hearing the term personalized medicine more frequently in recent years. How would you define personalized medicine for myeloma, and how can patients access this type of care? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, personalized medicine or precision medicine is a term that we’ve really sort of used for many oncologic conditions over the last decade or so. I would say, for multiple myeloma, in terms of identifying a target within the myeloma cell that’s unique to the patient.  

And then deploying a certain therapy to that patient because of that target is still lacking. We do have one example where patients have, for example, an 11;14 translocation, which we see in about 15 percent of myeloma patients.  

There’s an agent called venetoclax (Venclexta) that is very active against that particular cohort of patients, although that is still not approved to be used, but that’s one example where that agent specifically benefits that type of myeloma. Other than that, most of the therapies that we have benefit essentially everybody with myeloma, which is great, but it’s not so personalized.  

Where I would say there’s the most personalization happening now, at least in my practice, is looking at which types of therapies an individual patient may receive. What I mean by that is if somebody’s in an excellent response, with quadruplet-based induction therapy, I have a very real discussion with them about the pros and cons of stem cell transplant. We make those decisions in real time depending on how the patient doing, depending on how their response is.  

And then kind of deciding a whole kind of what are the kind of risks and benefits and what makes sense for that individual patient. Similarly, when you go on to maintenance therapy, maintenance therapy means that after you’ve gone through the initial phase of your myeloma therapy and the disease is under control, what type of therapy can we keep you on to keep it under control for as long as possible? Historically, that has been lenalidomide or Revlimid. Now we’re adding drugs such as daratumamab and other agents to Revlimid to see if that can further prolong the response to that initial therapy.  

So, all those decisions are so individualized that you have to discuss with your provider what makes sense for you and what are the pros and cons of doing one approach versus the other.  

Katherine:

Well, if we’re talking about in-depth testing, how do the results of that testing affect treatment options? 

Dr. Nadeem:

So, right now we use conventional blood tests to get a sense of response in the vast majority of patients. That includes the serum protein electrophoresis and the serum free light chain assay.  

Most patients have detectable levels of these proteins, abnormal proteins in the blood at diagnosis and then you can follow them using a blood test. There’s a subset of patients that have disease only that shows up on scans. So, we then kind of incorporate some of those scans and then, also, utilize the bone marrow results both in the beginning and in subsequent analyses to kind of give a big-picture composite response assessment for that particular patient. Nowadays, there are also other tools that we’re using, such as MRD, or minimal residual disease.  

That is a test that is done on a bone marrow biopsy to determine, if you don’t have detectable protein in the blood, do you have myeloma cells present at the deepest level possible? And if you do versus if you don’t, trials have shown that there is a difference in terms of prognosis. Now, while that hasn’t fully been utilized yet to make treatment decisions in patients that are not on clinical trials, we do get prognostic information out of it, and nowadays, more and more of those trials are using these MRD tests to determine what to do with treatment.   

And I think that’s how it’s going to be in the future. So, having those extra tests available but, again, important to discuss with your provider what is the utility of this test. How are we going to use this information for your individual case to make some decisions? 

Katherine:

What questions should patients be asking their provider about a proposed treatment plan?  

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah. I think because myeloma therapy’s so nuanced and much of this is still in clinical trials or under investigation about what to do with some of these results, I would say, as a whole, it’s important to know which tests the physician looks at to determine how you’re doing, and kind of what their assessment of that result is. So, for example, if somebody’s had a 50 percent reduction in the amount of abnormal protein in the blood, is that sufficient, or should we be aiming for a number that’s much higher than that? 

Some of that depends on kind of where they are in their treatment course, but that’s a very sort of reasonable question to ask your physician is that where do you see my response now, let’s say six months into therapy, and is this adequate, and what is now, after we have all this information, what is my roadmap going forward to try to keep this disease in check? 

Katherine:

Yeah. Well, that’s great advice, Dr. Nadeem. Thank you. PEN has also created a downloadable office visit planner to help you organize your thoughts and communicate effectively with your healthcare team. You can find these at Powerfulpatients.org/myeloma.  

I’d like to turn to self-advocacy, Dr. Nadeem. Why is it so important that patients engage in their care treatment decisions? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah. As I mentioned, myeloma therapy is so individualized now and we can sit here, look at the trial data, get very into the weeds and technical about this therapy with this approach as X or Y higher response rate.   

Or MRD-negative rate, but in reality, we’re dealing with people and we’re dealing with people that have lives. They have all their priorities, and until you share that with us, it’s very difficult for us to know exactly what’s important to you. So, what I may consider to be kind of the “best therapy” for you may not make sense for you because of all the priorities that you may have, and I think it’s so important to advocate for yourself and not be afraid to bring that up to your physician because I think many patients kind of hold that stuff in for a long time because they don’t want it to impact their care. But I would argue the other way around.  

Tell us. Tell us exactly what you prioritize. Tell us if you can’t be out of commission for work for X amount of time because of a stem cell transplant. We now have options. We now have options for patients because of all these amazing new therapies for myeloma and we can come up with a very individualized treatment plan for you based on your priorities.  

Katherine:

If a patient is feeling like they’re not getting the best care or they’re uncomfortable with the care they’re receiving, what steps should they take to change that?  

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, I think that’s very difficult because this is a complex system. Medical systems are getting even more and more complex. They’re busy. Everybody’s busy: busy offices, labs, radiology. We’re all feeling that. It doesn’t matter where you are. So, I think it’s important to raise those concerns, number one, to your practice that you’re being seen at because they would like to see that feedback, right? So, kind of see what is something that they can perhaps improve upon. I think it’s always important, like we just said, to advocate for yourself and raise some of these issues and not be afraid of that.  

We’re all in this together, right, so I think ultimately, we’re all trying to take the best care of you and we would need to know which part of that may or may not be working so well.  

Katherine:

Let’s get to a few audience questions that we received prior to the program. This one is from Rita. “Is there an age limit on CAR T-cell therapy?” 

Dr. Nadeem:

So, no, there isn’t. A lot of age-related cutoffs that we’ve historically used for transplants or even the CAR T originally don’t really apply because we all know there’s patients that are in their late 70s that may be more fit and robust than somebody in their 50s. We see this all the time. So, frailty is something that we assess quite a bit in patients in determining whether they can handle some of the toxicities that may come from these therapies. So, there’s no age cutoff.  

Again, we look at certain other medical problems you may have, how fit you are, your organ function and things like that, but ultimately the goal is can you tolerate the chemotherapy you get before CAR-T cells and then can you tolerate some of the acute toxicities of CAR-T cells, such as the cytokine release syndrome, some risk of neurological toxicity, things like that. All of those are usually short-term, and if you feel confident that we can get you through that, then you’re eligible.  

Katherine:

Yeah. Laura sent in this question: “I’m considering bispecific antibody therapy. I know some of the side effects are similar to CAR T-cell therapy. Can you share the pros and cons of bispecifics and how it compares to CAR T?” 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah. I think we mentioned earlier that as a whole, they’re very similar. They’re both T-cell re-directing therapies, in many circumstances, with the same exact target of the myeloma cell, but because this isn’t a cell infusion – this is a cell injection – that you receive that redirects your T cells to the myeloma cells, you tend to see a little bit of a lower toxicity signal when it comes to the cytokine release syndrome incidents and severity. You see lower neurological toxicity, usually, than you do with CAR  T-cell products as a whole.  

With that comes slightly lower efficacy than you see with at least some of our CAR-T products, but if you respond to therapy, then the durability of response can be as good as you can achieve with CAR-T cells. One thing to note about the bispecifics, though, is that it is continuous therapy, so you are getting it on some regular schedule. Right now the approval is for it to be given weekly and then go to every two weeks after six months of therapy if you’re basically in a good response.  

A lot of that is to try to mitigate the risk of infection. So, that is one of the biggest things that we have seen with bispecifics more so than CAR-T cells. Because it is continuous administration of these therapies, that really suppresses your immune system significantly, and infection rates are quite high. So, we typically give other ways to try to mitigate that using immunoglobulin infusions to try to boost up your immune system. Typically, we do that once a month for patients, making sure you’re on the right prophylactic medications and then really adjusting the therapy and the schedule to you depending on your tolerability.  

So, as we said before, it’s an excellent option. I think bispecific antibodies are going to be the mainstay of myeloma therapy going forward because CAR-T cells, again, we can’t really treat everybody with CAR-T cells just simply because of the dynamics of how the process is. So, having the bispecific antibodies available for patients is excellent.  

Katherine:

Thank you for this information, Dr. Nadeem. And please continue to send in your questions to questions@powerfulpatients.org and we’ll work to get them answered on future programs.  

We’ve definitely learned today that the field of myeloma care is advancing quickly. As we close out the program, what would you like to leave the audience with? Why are you hopeful? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah. I think you all can see the tremendous progress that’s been made and, again, I still think it’s sort of the tip of the iceberg. These immunotherapies that are really showing this kind of activity, we’re just learning about them, and we’re going to improve them, not just the way we administer them. We’re going to make them even better and better and better and our hope is that a cure is not so far in the future. And perhaps even now we can cure a subset of patients if we deploy some of these therapies in the right person at the right time. So, I think that is really what I am hopeful for, that we have all these options available.  

Now it’s up to us to figure out which one fits in where and then, as we do that, hopefully we’ll see even better and better outcomes. And my hope is, over time, that this is a disease that we can cure at least in a subset of patients, which means that they get fixed duration therapy with whatever that we have.  

And then they’re done, and then hopefully never have to have therapy for this disease because it’ll be gone, and then, in patients that develop a disease relapse, we then treat them with some of these other agents. So, this is starting to hopefully mirror what we see in other blood cancers, such as lymphoma, for example, where you give the initial therapy and cure a subset of patients. Hopefully we can get there with myeloma in the not-so-distant future.  

Katherine:

It’s a very promising outlook to leave our audience with. Dr. Nadeem, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Dr. Nadeem:

Thank you so much for having me.   

Katherine:

And thank you to all of our collaborators. To learn more about myeloma and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for joining us today.  

CAR T-Cell Therapy Patient Eligibility | What Patients Should Know

CAR T-Cell Therapy Patient Eligibility | What Patients Should Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should CAR T-cell therapy patients know about patient eligibility? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses transplant eligibility factors, why the factors are examined, and proactive advice for patients.

[ACT[IVATION TIP

“…tell your doctor, “I’m interested in CAR T. I want to go talk to a CAR T center.” And that’s where they can tell you if something is possible or not.”

Download Guide | Descargar Guía

See More from [ACT]IVATED CAR T

Related Resources:

What Is the Impact of CAR T Therapy Access Barriers on Patients?

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What Are CAR T-Cell Therapy Requirements for Care Partners?

CAR T-Cell Therapy Follow-Up Monitoring | What Patients Can Expect

CAR T-Cell Therapy Follow-Up Monitoring | What Patients Can Expect

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Patel, what challenges exist in navigating the complexities of patient eligibility criteria for CAR T therapy, particularly in the context of comorbidities and prior treatments and how can these challenges be navigated more effectively?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, I think it’s, people compare it to stem cell transplant all the time, and that’s my biggest activation tip. Transplant eligibility is not the same as CAR T eligibility. CAR T eligibility is much easier. So the absolute contraindication I would say for CAR T, is probably my patients with dementia, right? Because some of the chemo that we give prior to the CAR T can worsen that. And things like ICANS, this neurotoxicity can worsen some of those symptoms and we don’t want that.

That’s where I would use a bispecific instead where we’ve seen some great responses, but everybody else, again, even if you’re on dialysis and you have kidney failure, we can change the dosing of that chemo and patients do really well with CAR T. We work with the nephrologist, to make sure we don’t cause volume overload or anything else that they’re doing dialysis on time. We’re changing things up, etcetera. Patients with cardiomyopathy, so heart failure, again, we don’t want to go in when you have active heart failure, but just because you have a history of heart failure, we can do things to make sure that you don’t get, again, volume overload or, too much pressure on your heart.

Even patients with history of strokes, in the clinical trials that wasn’t allowed, but in the real world, again, as long as you’re not needing active therapy for your stroke, meaning, blood thinners, things like that yet anymore, then we can actually still potentially get you through CAR T. We have patients who aren’t able to speak.

They have expressive aphasia from history of stroke, but we actually have charts where we can figure out what their ICE scores are for ICANS. And we can make sure we, that they’re not having neurotoxicity. So we have other means by making sure that things are going well during that CAR T therapy that I think it’s really up to them. If they’re interested in it, my activation tip here is tell your doctor, “I’m interested in CAR T. I want to go talk to a CAR T center.” And that’s where they can tell you if something is possible or not. And I will say for the most part, most of my patients can get through CAR T. Again, we’ll talk about the different products. We’ll talk about how we would do it, how we would change it potentially.

But again, I have so many patients that are over a year, two years out without any therapy now. And they’re doing fantastically. And, and again, my patients with comorbidities and my older patients, they’re the ones who benefit when we’re not on any therapy because continuous therapy ends up causing more toxicity for them. And so I think it’s really, really important to speak up to your doctor and just say, this is something I’d really be interested in. And, any one of our centers would be happy to explain what we would do differently as well as, which product is the best one for you based on that risk comorbidity and the risk-benefit ratio.

Lisa Hatfield:

That again is great information. I’m glad you addressed the kidney dysfunction issue because we have several people in our support group who worry that they won’t be eligible for CAR T therapy because they have kidney dysfunction. So they’re all seeing specialists, which is the way to go for patients, to always see a specialist. So thank you so much, Dr. Patel.


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What CAR T Research Is Ongoing to Improve Treatment Response?

What CAR T Research Is Ongoing to Improve Treatment Response? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 How can CAR T treatment response be improved with research? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses the CARTITUDE, KARMMA-9, and LEGEND studies and proactive patient advice about bispecific therapy and CAR T.

[ACT[IVATION TIP

“…before you start bispecific therapy, talk to your doctor about CAR T. And the reason I say that is that when you get a bispecific therapy, and currently that is not a fixed duration therapy, it is a continuous therapy. So patients are on it until they relapse. And the problem is that once you relapse on that T-cell therapy, your risk of losing BCMA, losing the antigen is much higher. There are mutations that we’re seeing that most patients get.”

Download Guide | Descargar Guía

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CAR T-Cell Therapy Patient Eligibility | What Patients Should Know

CAR T-Cell Therapy Patient Eligibility | What Patients Should Know

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

So, Dr. Patel, given the risk of relapse following initial CAR T therapy, what approaches are being investigated to enhance the persistence and durability of CAR T-cell responses in patients? I know there are a lot of theories out there saying things like antigen loss might be an issue, the loss of the target BCMA, T-cell exhaustion, the environment of the bone marrow, what of those theories are being investigated or looked at?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, I think without causing too many issues with why we think CAR T is so great, where it’s a one-and-done, right? That gives people this wonderful time off. In the relapsed/refractory setting, I think our goal is can we use CAR T to cure, right? That is the ultimate question. And, again, with cilta-cel (ciltacabtagene autoleucel) [Carvykti], with the original data from the LEGEND study, which was the original study in China, those patients had a little bit less therapy than CARTITUDE. However, there are about 15 percent of patients that are six years out from their CAR T still in remission, right?

And so that gives us a little bit of hope that maybe we’ll have a small tail and a small number of patients that are cured from our current CAR T approaches. But the question is, how do we now increase that tail and make it more like lymphoma? And then hopefully, 90, 100 percent of patients eventually, how can we, how can you get everyone cured? And so I think it comes down to myeloma is not the same for everybody, right? So you have our high-risk patients versus our standard-risk patients. And I think the strategies are going to be different for those two patient populations.

They already are in the way we treat patients with even induction therapy and maintenance and consolidation. We tend to be much more aggressive with folks who have high-risk disease versus those who don’t. And so, I think the biggest studies right now that are looking at this are really the combination studies. And so looking at CAR T followed by some type of maintenance, but fixed duration maintenance. So CARTITUDE 5 and 6 and KarMMa-9, these are all the studies of the BCMA CAR Ts in frontline. All of them will have maintenance afterwards, but it seems to be that they’re going to be two years of LEN maintenance and that’s it, nothing after that.

So LEN, lenalidomide (Revlimid), we know that it activates T cells. It activates other immune cells like NK cells in the body, even B cells. And so when you get cytokine release syndrome from the CAR T, you’re already making more of these immune cells and activating them. And now you’re going to have lenalidomide in there to kind of keep that going, right? And so that could help with this, not persistence of the CAR T itself, but persistence of better immune cells that can actually keep your myeloma down, right? So I think that’s one way.

The other way is some of the new therapies like CELMoDs. So these are sort of the newer version of lenalidomide and pomalidomide. They tend to have more immune effect than the other two drugs. So there’s studies looking at other CAR Ts, so a different target, right? So we talked about antigen loss. If you’ve lost BCMA, then what do we do?

Well, there’s other targets like GPRC5D. So a couple of the studies are looking at GPRC5D-CAR-T plus mezigdomide, which is one of the CELMoDs, or another arm is iberdomide, which is the other CELMoD, and looking at different doses without causing too many side effects, but still helping the T cell keep going, all kinds of things going on there. So those are some interesting studies.

And one of the cohorts, it’s actually using a GPRC5D-CAR-T with a BCMA bispecific after, that’s combinations. So now you’re targeting two different antigens and you’re using T cells in two different ways, right? And again, it’s fixed duration so that it’s not forever, but after a certain period, hopefully, we fix the bone marrow and we’ve killed enough myeloma that hopefully it won’t come back.

And so I think all of those are different strategies for the T-cell exhaustion to help with that, to hopefully keep from getting antigen loss, or if someone does have antigen loss, figuring out a way to go around it. And then the microenvironment I think is the biggest one, is how do we find cytokines and other things that can give us a bone marrow microenvironment that makes it really inhospitable for that myeloma to ever come back again.

So there are early Phase I studies looking at some of this, but I think down the line, that’s really what it will be, that once people go into their stringent CRs, MRD undetectable, now what can we do to keep that bone marrow from ever letting it grow again? And I think those are some interesting studies in the future.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. Thank you. So some patients are asked questions about the sequencing, and you’d mentioned different therapies. So I’ll ask this really quickly as follow-up, do you have any recommended or are there recommended sequencing of these different therapies like CAR T, then bispecifics, then CELMoDs, not all of them are FDA-approved at this point, but what are your thoughts on sequencing of those therapies?

Dr. Krina Patel:

So my activation tip here is that before you start bispecific therapy, talk to your doctor about CAR T. And the reason I say that is that when you get a bispecific therapy, and currently that is not a fixed duration therapy, it is a continuous therapy. So patients are on it until they relapse. And the problem is that once you relapse on that T-cell therapy, your risk of losing BCMA, losing the antigen is much higher. There are mutations that we’re seeing that most patients get.

So that means the next time we try to use a different BCMA therapy, there’s a big chance it’s not going to work. And we have small studies that show that, that people who get a bispecific, and then we try to go to CAR T for both CAR Ts that the response rates go down and the progression-free survival. So the months that patients get without, needing other therapy goes down for cilta-cel (ciltacabtagene autoleucel) [Carvykti], 33 months in CARTITUDE. It goes down to six months in CARTITUDE-2 where they did CAR T after prior BCMA therapy. That’s a huge drop.

In ide-cel, the real-world data, we saw that after bispecifics, you only get 2.8 months. If you get a CAR T, even though the response rates were still 70, 80 percent, it obviously there are clones that that BCMA isn’t there anymore that we can’t kill. And then it just grows back, right? The other way around, we actually see still a really good response because CAR T is a one-and-done, most of the time, you’re not going to lose BCMA.

So that let’s say a few years later, the myeloma was coming back. It usually has the same BCMA on there. So now I can use a bispecific. And yes, the PFS is still shorter than what you would see if you never had any BCMA therapy. It’s still in the realm of, almost a year, PFS though. So it’s much closer to what we see in the real world for bispecifics than the other way around for CAR T, it’s much, much lower. So we try to do CAR T first then bispecific, if possible. The other part is a T cell. So if you try to make T cells right after someone’s coming off of a bispecific, it is really hard to get T cells that are functional that then we can actually put a CAR into and make it work. So again, why, doing a CAR T first, and then a bispecific makes the most sense for the majority of our patients if they can do it that way.


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CAR T-Cell Therapy Follow-Up Monitoring | What Patients Can Expect

CAR T-Cell Therapy Follow-Up Monitoring | What Patients Can Expect from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What can CAR T-cell therapy patients expect for follow-up monitoring? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses how long follow-up monitoring is typically carried out, issues that are monitored for, and proactive advice for patients to help ensure optimal care.

[ACT[IVATION TIP

“…for long-term side effects really is infections, number one, because even after I just saw a patient last week whose IgG level’s still less than 100 even a year after CAR T. We’ve just knocked out the good and the bad, and so it was just a higher risk of infection, so we try to prevent by giving IVIG regularly, and so again, any time you get an infection, just talk to your doctors, don’t say, ‘This is just a cold,’ just make sure that someone’s following.”

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Patel, if a patient is or has been part of a clinical trial involving CAR T, how long will that patient be followed under the clinical trial protocol for long-term effects, and this is especially important for people who see community oncologists and are wondering about any latent effects that they might experience, how long were those clinical trials follow those patients?

Dr. Krina Patel:

That’s a great question. So most trials will follow for at least two years just for toxicity, efficacy, now, most trials will follow until you’re relapsing, so that’s the point, is that we want to make sure this is working, that you don’t have any long-term toxicity, and when you relapse, we call that the progression-free survival, which is what most of the trials are looking at, and once you relapse, usually they’ll say, Okay, you’re coming off a trial because now you need other therapy and that could take years.

And however, for all CAR T products, because these are genetically modified, the FDA requires that you go into a long-term protocol where we’re monitoring for potential leukemias or lymphomas that T cells can cause, theoretically. So that is for 15 years, total. So everyone then is supposed to go on to that, now we can’t force you to go on to those, but it is something important because it’s come up recently that maybe some of these T-cell products are leading to leukemia or lymphoma, because we’re modifying those T cells could they themselves turn into a cell that causes cancer.

The theoretical risk has always been there, I will tell you that in reality, yes, there have been probably a handful of patients out of all the lymphoma and myeloma and leukemia patients who’ve been treated with CAR T where maybe it came from the T cell itself, the actual CAR T. The majority of other cases that have been reported, it’s been a low risk, it’s less than what we usually see in the general population of patients with blood cancers that get other blood cancers.

But when we see it, most of the time,  it’s not in the T cell where the CAR was in, but again, a handful have been, and that is really why as a group, we have to be really careful and make sure that some of the different. The way we make CAR T is very different amongst the products, and to make sure that one product versus another isn’t more likely to cause T-cell leukemias or lymphomas. So that’s the main reason why that 15-year protocol exists.

Lisa Hatfield:

And do you have any tips for patients who maybe have undergone CAR T therapy, are several years out and working with our community oncologist, what should they be watching for in terms of any late in side effects or long-term side effects?

Dr. Krina Patel:

So I think the activation tip here for long-term side effects really is infections, number one, because even after I just saw a patient last week whose IgG level’s still less than 100 even a year after CAR T. We’ve just knocked out the good and the bad, and so it was just a higher risk of infection, so we try to prevent by giving IVIG regularly, and so again, any time you get an infection, just talk to your doctors, don’t say, “This is just a cold,” just make sure that someone’s following.

And the other big thing is your blood count, so if your blood counts start doing something crazy, your white count’s getting high or too low, you’re not on any therapy, your hemoglobin is getting really low, your platelets are getting low, that’s where we want to make sure there’s not a secondary cancer, a secondary blood cancer involved. Again, T-cell leukemia myeloma was really rare, but we have seen 10 percent patients with MDS or AML in the relapse refractory population, so that is something else we would still want to watch out for and make sure we don’t miss that.


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What Are CAR T-Cell Therapy Requirements for Care Partners?

What Are CAR T-Cell Therapy Requirements for Care Partners? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What requirements do CAR T-cell therapy care partners need to meet? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses CAR T-cell therapy care partner requirements, the reasoning for the requirements, and specific side effect conditions they need to be on the lookout for.

Download Guide | Descargar Guía

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

With their caregiver eligibility requirements, does a patient have to have a caregiver with them during the initial part of the CAR-T therapy?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah. So, unfortunately, if you’re going to do it with outpatient, then yes, because again, when things go wrong, they can go wrong pretty fast, especially with the ICANS, neurotoxicity. So ICANS, most patients just have a little bit of trouble writing or they might have a little bit of trouble with confusion, but if that happens, you might not remember or know who to call if you’re not feeling well, right.

Now when you’re in hospital, we actually say, No, you don’t need a caregiver with you, it’s nice to have somebody because we could pick up on things a lot faster, so if someone calls somebody the wrong name, it happens once in a while but they’re doing it consistently. I might not recognized that, but my patient’s caregiver will recognize it, they repeatedly, they called me this name instead of this name.

So little things like that, but at the same time, you don’t have to have a caregiver when you’re in the hospital because we’re watching you 24/7. So for that period that sometimes our patients stay for about a week or so, you don’t need somebody, but after that when you are outpatient, at least until you get home and you’re out of that period of ICANS and CRS, we do need somebody with you just to make sure if something bad doesn’t happen, and that if something is happening, they can call 911 or at least get you to the hospital relatively quickly. And that’s why there’s time limits, you can’t be farther than, for some trials, 30 minutes outside the hospital where you’re getting your CAR T.

So say two hours. Again, for us, we usually say 30 minutes is probably the longest, just because Houston, the traffic is so crazy too sometimes, that we want to make sure that you can get to the hospital quickly, even though it’s a lot less likely chance of getting high grade ICANS it’s less than 5 percent, but if you are that patient, we want to be able to get you into the hospital quickly and reverse it quickly.


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