Tag Archive for: CAR T-Cell Therapy

December 2022 Digital Health Roundup

Scientists and engineers have teamed up to create new treatments to help fight cancer. These treatments sound like something out of a science fiction movie but are bringing us closer to ending cancer. Bacteriabots are nanobots used to destroy tumors and trigger the patient’s own immune response to fight their cancer. CRISPR is using CAR T-cells to create therapies for cancer patients that have run out of treatment options. Nanobubbles in combination with ultrasound waves are being used to kill cancer cells with positive results in early testing. As science and technology advance, it opens new options for cancer treatment.

The Army of ‘Bacteriabots’ That Could Combat Cancer Tumors

In this case, the bacteriabots colonized 3D tumor spheroids. They delivered chemotherapeutic molecules, demonstrating an innovative on-demand drug delivery method for cancer treatment reports InterestingEngineering.com . Biobots are time limited and programmed to self-destruct without leaving anything harmful behind. They are targeted for a particular task such as going to places of high acidity as in tumor tissue. Using bacteriabots helps to limit the unwanted side effects of treatment on healthy tissue, unlike the current treatments of chemotherapy and radiation. The use of bacteriabots is a non-invasive way to get into a closed environment like tissue and blood vessels. These biobots can also be used to trigger the patient’s own immune system. There are many things biobots could eventually be used for; treating other diseases and even repairing a torn ACL without surgery. Click to read the full story.

CRISPR Gene-Editing May Boost Cancer Immunotherapy, New Study Finds

CRISPR is developing cancer treatments using CAR T-cell therapies. These are called “living drugs” because they’re living cells of the immune system, taken from cancer patients, and then reinfused after being genetically engineered in the lab to attack the patient’s tumors reports weku.org . Using a drug that is living can make it last a few weeks or even a few years. This therapy offers a treatment for people that have run out of other options like stem cell therapy. Scientists are trying to make an off the shelf version of this therapy that would be available quickly, made in large quantities, and less expensive. They take T cells from a healthy donor and use CRISPR to reprogram the T cells. It reprograms it in several ways; to leave healthy cells alone, to hide from the patient’s own immune system, and to destroy cancer. While studies are showing some positive results from the off the shelf CAR T-cell therapy, it is not as effective as using the patient’s own cells. Click to read the full story.

These Tiny Bubbles are “Warheads” for Killing Cancer

These infinitesimal gas bubbles surround the tumor and then can be exploded via ultrasound, creating “therapeutic warhead,” as they artfully put it in their study, published in the journal Nanoscale freethink.com . High frequency ultrasound can damage tissues surrounding tumors. The use of low frequency ultrasound in combination with the nanobubbles reduces harm to surrounding tissues. The tiny bubbles are injected into the bloodstream which goes into the blood vessels of a tumor and is then leaked into the tissue of the tumor. The low frequency ultrasound makes the bubbles explode and that kills the cancer cells. This is an effective treatment for tumors that are located deep within the body or where there are many tumors. The hope is that this method would replace surgeries to remove cancerous tumors. The trials are currently moving from mouse trials to human trials. Click to read the full story.

Tools for Choosing Myeloma Therapy

Tools for Choosing Myeloma Therapy from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When faced with choosing a myeloma treatment, what should be considered? This animated video reviews factors that impact treatment decisions, provides a list of questions to ask your healthcare team about therapy and advice for engaging in your myeloma care.

See More From Innovative Myeloma Therapies

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What Is Myeloma CAR T-Cell Therapy?

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Immunotherapy: Which Myeloma Patients Is It Right For? 


Transcript:

Whether a patient is newly diagnosed with myeloma or is facing a relapse, choosing a treatment approach can feel overwhelming.   

Shared decision-making is a process where patients and healthcare providers communicate and collaborate to make care decisions. This approach encourages patients to take a more active role in their care and treatment and can help them feel more confident when choosing a therapy. 

So, what can impact myeloma treatment decisions? 

  • There are patient-related factors, such as a patient’s age, fitness level, and pre-existing conditions. 
  • And, disease-related factors, including the aggressiveness of the patient’s disease and its location in the body. 
  • And, treatment-related factors, such as past treatments a patient has received or if they are refractory to medicines. 

How can you play a role in making treatment decisions?  

You can start by making a list of questions in advance of your appointment. This can help you to organize your thoughts before you meet with your healthcare team.  

And, when working with your doctor to choose a treatment, consider asking the following questions: 

  • What type of myeloma do I have?  
  • Are there test results that may impact my treatment choices? 
  • What are the risks and benefits of each treatment option? 
  • What approach do you recommend and why?  
  • How is the treatment administered, and what side effects might I expect? 
  • What are my options if this treatment stops working? 
  • Are there newer treatment options available to me, including immunotherapy?  
  • And, is there a clinical trial that might be right for me?  

It’s also a good idea to bring a friend or loved one to your appointment for support to take notes and help you recall information. Afterwards, discuss the appointment together – you can use this time to talk about your care plan and do your own research to learn more about your options.   

The patient portal is another useful tool in your care. You can use it to view lab and test results. And you can use the messaging feature to communicate with your healthcare team when you have more urgent questions to address before your next visit. 

Now that you know more about how to make myeloma treatment decisions, how can you take action? 

  • First, consider a second opinion or a consult with a specialist. 
  • Then, ensure you have had all relevant myeloma testing. 
  • Next, understand and participate in treatment decisions. This includes learning about your options, so you can weigh the pros and cons of each approach. And be sure to speak up and share your personal preferences and goals with your care team. 
  • Communicate regularly with your healthcare team – don’t wait to share information only when you have an appointment.  
  • And finally, bring a friend or loved one to appointments and always write down any questions or concerns in advance. 

Visit powerfulpatients.org/myeloma to learn more about myeloma and access tools for self-advocacy. 

What Is CAR T-Cell Therapy for Myeloma?

What Is CAR T-Cell Therapy for Myeloma? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How does CAR T-cell therapy work to treat myeloma? This animated video provides an overview of the CAR T-cell process, explains which patient this treatment could be appropriate for, and reviews potential side effects.

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Transcript:

CAR T-cell therapy is a type of treatment in which a patient’s own immune system cells, also known as T cells, are reprogrammed in a laboratory to attack cancer cells.  

The process involves removing T cells from the patient’s blood. Then, the T cells are sent to a laboratory where a gene for a special receptor that binds to a protein on the patient’s cancer cells is added to the T cells. The special receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor.  

When this process is complete, the cells are put back into the patient’s body by infusion. The altered T cells then attack and destroy cancer cells in the patient’s body. 

In myeloma patients, the FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapies recognize a protein called B.C.M.A. on the surface of myeloma cells. 

Now that you know how CAR T-cell therapy works, who is CAR T-cell therapy right for? 

  • While still a new treatment, CAR T-cell therapy is currently approved for people with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who have already received four or more lines of therapy. 

While every patient reacts differently to CAR T-cell therapy, some of the potential side effects may include: 

  •  Cytokine Release Syndrome, which occurs when the immune system responds to infection or immunotherapy drugs more aggressively than it should. Symptoms may include fever, nausea, fatigue, and body aches.
  • Another potential side effect is neurotoxicity, which may cause negative effects on the nervous system such as confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding, loss of balance or consciousness, tremors and seizures. 
  • And blood count recovery can be slower following CAR T-cell therapy.   

So, what should you ask your doctor about CAR T-cell therapy? 

  • Is CAR T-cell therapy available at this cancer center? 
  • Is CAR T-cell therapy an option for me now or in the future? 
  • What is the cost of this therapy? 
  • What are the risks and benefits of this approach? 
  • What can I expect during the recovery process? 

To learn more about innovative myeloma therapies and to access tools to help you become a pro-active patient, visit powerfulpatients.org.  

Which Myeloma Patients Are Candidates for CAR T-Cell Therapy?

Which Myeloma Patients Are Candidates for CAR T-Cell Therapy? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloma specialist Dr. Omar Nadeem discusses which patients are most appropriate for CAR T-cell therapy and explains cytokine release syndrome (CRS), which may arise following this treatment approach.

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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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:  

“How is it determined as to which patients might be the best candidates for clinical trial CAR T-cell treatment?”  

Dr. Omar Nadeem:  

So, CAR T-cell therapy is already approved. It’s FDA-approved for patients that have had four or more prior lines of myeloma therapy. So, when we think about a patient coming to us for that particular treatment that have relapsed myeloma, we’re always looking to see how much of the previous therapy they had. 

Whether they meet the indication, the labeled indication for that particular product. And then now, as we’ve discussed today, we’re studying this CAR T-cell therapy in various different phases of myeloma. Earlier lines of therapy, even thinking about studying it in high-risk smoldering myeloma, right? And then kind of looking about how we can best study this therapy in so many different phases. 

So, it all depends on where a patient is in their disease state, and then we kind of look to see whether a commercial approved CAR-T product makes sense for them, or we think about one of our several relapse CAR T-cell trials that are looking at BCMA target, which is what the approved one is, but also looking at newer targets like GPRC5D that we’ve brought up before. 

So, it encompasses a lot of different things, that question, but I think in terms of the candidacy of the patient itself, we do know that these CAR T-cell therapies have some toxicity, so we have to then weigh in terms of what medical problems they have whether they’ll be able to tolerate what the majority of patients with CAR T-cell therapy get, which is this syndrome called cytokine release syndrome, where patients will get a fever. 

And in some cases have changes in their blood pressure or oxygen levels. We have to make sure that the patient’s body can handle that. I will say we’ve gotten better and better at managing a lot of toxicities as it comes to CAR T-cell therapy. When this was first approved, it was all pretty new, but now what we’re learning is if patients are developing a fever, which the majority do, we’re intervening earlier and earlier to prevent them from getting sicker. 

So, these are things we’ve learned now, and the majority of patients get through CAR T-cell therapy toxicity period much better than they did when it was first approved. 

How Is Research Advancing Myeloma Treatment and Care?

How Is Research Advancing Myeloma Treatment and Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

A panel of myeloma experts, including Drs. Omar Nadeem, Irene Ghobrial, and Betsy O’Donnell, discuss how clinical trials advance myeloma research and share an update on promising therapies in development.

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.

Dr. Irene Ghobrial is Director of the Clinical Investigator Research Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Ghobrial.

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute specializing in Plasma Cell Disorders. 

See More From INSIST! Myeloma

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Where do clinical trials fit into a patient’s treatment plan? 

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes. So, clinical trials as a term, a lot of times patients have a lot of questions about what that means. There’s a lot of misconceptions, I would say.  

Sometimes patients think they will get either a placebo and they won’t get the adequate treatment, or that they may not get the right treatment, right, because they’re taking a chance going on a clinical trial. It’s actually the opposite. So, all the trials are really designed to improve upon what we already know works in a particular disease, right? So, when we think about trials let’s say in relapsed myeloma, where the patient has already had some of the approved therapies, we’re looking at the most promising new therapies that have shown efficacy either in the lab or first in human studies and then moving them through the different phases and studying them in more and more patients.  

And that’s how all these drugs get started, right? So, they all get started at that point and then make their way to earlier lines of therapy.  

Then you’re trying to answer different questions as part of clinical trials. So, which one of these therapies can I combine, for example. Which ones can I omit, which ones – so, they’re all sort of getting the standard therapy and getting something either added on top of it or removed, depending on what the question that we’re asking. 

And then in the world that we currently live in with precursor plasma cell disorders, as Dr. Ghobrial mentioned, we have lots of patients that are at high risk of developing multiple myeloma in their lifetime, and that could be in a few years to a decade. And a lot of these therapies are so effective, and we’re now trying to really study some of these rationally in that patient population, so that’s a very different clinical trial, for example, than what I described earlier.  

So, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and where you are in the phase of your disease. 

Katherine Banwell:

This next question is open to all of you. Are there therapies in development that are showing promise for patients with myeloma? Dr. O’Donnell, let’s start with you.  

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell:

Yes. So, I think we are so fortunate in multiple myeloma to have so much interest in our disease and so many great drugs developed. So, as Dr. Nadeem was discussing, CAR-T cells are an immunotherapy, the ones that are approved now, we actually are fortunate to have two CAR-T cells approved, target something very specific called B-cell maturation antigen.  

We’re now seeing the next generation where we’re looking at other targets on the same cancer cell, that plasma cell, so those are evolving. 

Same thing is true in the bispecific antibody space. Again, those target BCMA now, but we have newer bispecifics who look at alternate targets, and really what this does is it gives us different ways of approaching the cancer cell, particularly as you relapse through disease.  

Dr. Irene Ghobrial:

I would probably say we’re also getting into targeted therapies and more of personalized, so if you have an 11;14 translocation, venetoclax (Venclexta) would be an amazing drug for that. And the more we can say my own personal myeloma, what’s the best treatment for me, that’s how we’re trying to do it. So, it may not be exactly precision medicine, but we’re getting closer and closer to precision medicine of my myeloma, my specific drugs. And even if people have a 17p deletion, then we would say let’s think of that immunotherapy.  

It is truly a renaissance for us, and we’re starting to get into trispecifics, into off-the-shelf CAR-T, into so many new things. Into two different antigens that are expressed for the CAR-Ts. I mean, we are really beginning the era of immunotherapy, and we’re excited to see how much we can go into that because it will completely change myeloma, and hopefully we will cure many patients. We think we have already amazing drugs. It’s a matter of when to use them and who is the right person for this right drug. 

Katherine:

What are you hopeful about the future of care for myeloma patients? Dr. Ghobrial, do you want to start? 

Dr. Irene Ghobrial:

I’m hopeful that we truly cure myeloma, and no one should ever develop end organ damage. 

We should identify it early and treat it early, and no one should ever come in being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Dr. Nadeem? 

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes, I think I definitely agree with what Irene said, and really having a more thoughtful approach to each individual myeloma patient. As I mentioned earlier, we have so many available therapies. I want to be able to know exactly which patients need which path in terms of treatment, and which ones we can maybe de-escalate therapy, right? So, thinking about which patients do well and maybe can get away with not being on continuous therapy, and those that absolutely need it. Identifying them better to give them the best therapy. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. O’Donnell, do you have anything to add? 

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell:

I think we all share a common goal, which is cure, and for those who we can’t cure yet, I think really working on making the experience as good as it possibly can be and focusing on the factors that we can control and optimizing those, both for patients and their caregivers who are in this journey together with the patient.  

What Are Currently Available Myeloma Treatments?

What Are Currently Available Myeloma Treatments? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Omar Nadeem reviews myeloma treatment classes, including immunomodulatory therapies, proteasome inhibitors, and monoclonal antibodies. Dr. Nadeem also discusses how combining these therapies has boosted the effectiveness of myeloma treatment.

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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How Is Research Advancing Myeloma Treatment and Care?


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Nadeem, what types of myeloma treatment classes are currently available?  

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes. So, we started over three decades ago plus with just having basically steroid medications and some older chemotherapy drugs that weren’t very targeted at all, and that was basically all we had up until about a little over 20 years ago, where immunomodulatory drugs were first discovered to be effective in multiple myeloma, and that included thalidomide (Contergan or Thalomid) and now a commonly used agent called lenalidomide, or Revlimid.  

After that, we had a next class of medications approved called proteasome inhibitors that work differently than the immunomodulatory drugs, and then we combined all of these therapies about a decade plus ago and showed that that was better than anything else that we were doing before that. So, combining the steroids with the immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors became the standard of care. 

And then we had the next class of drugs approved in 2015 called monoclonal antibodies, and that’s the first time we have monoclonal antibodies approved for myeloma, and it first started in patients that had relapsed myeloma, and then they made it all the way up to front line therapy with a drug in particular called daratumumab (Darzalex).  

And now what we’re going is entering an era of combining all four of these therapies, just like we did 10 years ago with three drugs, and showing that combining four drugs is actually better than three. And the important thing there is that it’s not necessarily adding cumulative toxicity. These are targeted therapies; they all work differently, but they all work really well together. So, now combining these agents has allowed us to really treat the disease effectively and allow for patients to tolerate the therapies.  

And then over the last couple of years, we’ve now entered kind of the next renaissance in myeloma where you have immunotherapies, and these are sort of true immunotherapies, in some cases taking the patient’s own T cells and then genetically modifying them to recognize myeloma cells and putting them back into patients. This is called CAR T-cell therapy, and that’s now approved for patients with multiple myeloma.  

And that again, just like the previous drug, sits in patients that have – you know, at a space where patients have had multiple relapses. But we’re now studying that earlier and earlier, and that along with another class of drugs called bispecific antibodies that also use your T cells via a different mechanism. A lot of exciting things going on, and we keep adding to the available agents for this disease.  

What Emerging Myeloma Treatments Are Showing Promise?

What Emerging Myeloma Treatments Are Showing Promise?  from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloma specialist Dr. Mark Schroeder reviews the latest advances in myeloma treatment, including a discussion of CAR T-cell therapy and bispecific antibodies.

Dr. Mark Schroeder is a hematologist at Siteman Cancer Center of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Schroeder serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Schroeder.

See More from Engaging in Myeloma Treatment Decisions

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Expert Perspective Advances in Treating Relapsed and Refractory Myeloma

How Does Disease Staging Affect Myeloma Treatment Choices?

Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

What about emerging therapies for myeloma? What approaches are showing promise? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

So, I think the biggest news in myeloma, and across a lot of cancers now, are immunotherapies. We know in myeloma – now we have two CAR T-cells –  

Now a CAR T-cell is engineering your own immune cell called a T cell to express a receptor on its surface that binds to the myeloma, and then those immune cells go and kill the myeloma. That’s a form of immunotherapy.  

There’s two CAR-T cells for treating myeloma after the myeloma has come back four times, has needed four treatments. Those are very active in that line of therapy, and we can see response rates over 80 percent in patients who otherwise weren’t responding to other approved therapies for myeloma.  

On the other hand, there are other immunotherapies that are used earlier in the treatment course of myeloma. One that is not incorporated more frequently for the initial treatment is a drug called daratumumab – it’s an antibody. It’s a protein that binds to the surface of myeloma and stimulates the immune system to react against the myeloma. And so, it’s not a traditional chemotherapy, but it’s using your own immune system to attack the cancer.  

And then a third one that’s probably just as – it looks just as potentially effective as CAR-T cells are called bispecific antibodies. And that would use a protein similar to daratumumab which is an antibody, but it uses parts of antibodies to bind to – it could be two different proteins – one expressed on a T cell, the other one expressed on the myeloma cells. And when it binds, it brings those two cells together and causes your own immune system to attack the myeloma. Those are also very effective, and within the next month or two, there will be a bispecific antibody approved for treating patients with myeloma. 

Katherine Banwell:

Oh, that’s great news. Any others? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

Yeah, well – I mean, the other potential – there are other immune cells called natural killer cells that are also in clinical trials for development to attack myeloma, and potentially even engineering those natural killer cells to attack myeloma.  

There are other antibodies; sometimes the antibodies of protein bind a specific target on the surface of the myeloma. I mentioned one – daratumumab – but there is a whole list of others that are in clinical development. The one other antibody – or two, couple of other antibodies that are approved for treating myeloma are isatuximab which also binds to CD38. And another one called elotuzumab which binds to a protein called CS1 or SLAMF7 on the surface of myeloma.  

That’s more information than you probably wanted or needed, but those antibody therapies can be very effective in treating myeloma. There is another antibody therapy that has a payload of a toxin on the antibody, and it binds to BCMA or B-cell maturation antigen.  

That’s the same antigen that the bispecific antibodies as well as the CAR-T cells are targeting on myeloma surface, and so that is potentially one that is approved by the FDA also to treat myeloma.   

Katherine Banwell:

As we close out our conversation, Dr. Schroeder, I wanted to get your take on the future of myeloma. What makes you hopeful? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

Well, I am hopeful – just within the last five years, there have been a number of new drugs approved for myeloma. They are approved for later lines of therapy, but they are being moved earlier in the treatment. And within the last 10-20 years, we’ve seen an improvement in the survival of patients with myeloma. As these new therapies are in development, as they’re being moved earlier in the treatment line, I’m very hopeful that survival and potentially cure for this cancer is possible. The only way that we’re going to get to that point is through clinical research and for patients to partner with their physicians and to consider clinical trials because that is the only way that new drugs get approved and are available to other patients with myeloma. So, I’m excited about what is approved; I’m excited about what’s coming through the pipeline to treat myeloma.  

Understanding Myeloma Treatment Types

Understanding Myeloma Treatment Types  from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the types of treatment available for myeloma? Myeloma expert Dr. Mark Schroeder reviews the myeloma treatment classes, including proteasome inhibitors, immunomodulatory drugs (iMids), and immunotherapy. Dr. Schroeder also discusses factors to consider when choosing therapy for patients with myeloma. 

Dr. Mark Schroeder is a hematologist at Siteman Cancer Center of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Schroeder serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Schroeder.

See More from Engaging in Myeloma Treatment Decisions

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

There are a number of treatments for myeloma patients. Can you talk about the types that are available? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

Yeah. So, the classes of – actually there is lots of drugs approved for treating myeloma but also recently approved.  

And we classify them into big categories. One of the categories is called immunomodulatory drugs – those are drugs like lenalidomide (Revlimid) and pomalidomide (Pomalyst), or even thalidomide (Thalomid), which was one of the first immunomodulatory drugs. Those are oral drugs that work on a specific pathway in the myeloma that leads to the myeloma cell dying. Another class of drugs are called proteasome inhibitors. Those include drugs like bortezomib or carfilzomib. Those drugs are often given under the skin or in the vein, and we know that they work really effectively on their own, but also when we combine them with an immunomodulatory drug like Revlimid or pomalidomide, the effect is even better. Another class is steroids. Steroids are kind of one of the first drugs used to treat this cancer, and steroids are effective at treating myeloma cells.  

Plasma cells are responsive to steroids. One of the first treatment regimens used to treat myeloma were traditional chemotherapies, and those are usually reserved for later on. You might think of traditional chemotherapy that causes hair loss, nausea, vomiting, low blood counts. Those, decades ago, were used to treat myeloma, but now we have effective oral, IV, or injection into the skin that don’t cause a lot of the traditional chemotherapy side effects but are very effective at treating the myeloma. And then another major class of drugs are considered immunotherapies. So, these are treatments that are engineered to either stimulate the immune system to go attack the myeloma, or maybe it’s even using part of your own immune system to engineer it to go attack the myeloma. 

Examples of those are called bispecific antibodies which kind of binds to the myeloma but binds to an immune cell, brings them together, or a CAR T-cell which takes your own T cells genetically modifies them to attack the cancer. 

Katherine Banwell:

And there is also a bone marrow transplant. Is that right? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

That’s right, yeah. I neglected – so, bone marrow transplant has been around for a while in myeloma. And despite it being around for so long and really good therapies being approved for myeloma, it’s still a standard treatment for myeloma. And bone marrow transplant in myeloma uses a traditional chemotherapy called melphalan that is associated with the chemotherapy side effects we talked about. But the advantage of bone marrow transplant is that it prolongs the time before the myeloma comes back and needs other treatments, and that’s why we do it. It can be toxic, but it can prolong the time before a patient needs another line of therapy. 

Katherine Banwell:

We know that everyone’s diagnosis is different. So, how do you determine a treatment plan for an individual patient? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

So, it depends in terms of the patient – initially, I will evaluate patients and determine how fit they are. Is it a patient that I think is strong enough to undergo a stem cell transplant? Is that going to be a benefit to them? That’s not necessarily a factor of just age, but it’s also, are they doing well functionally, or do they have any other medical problems like heart disease or kidney problems? Those things play into my decision on a treatment initially with patients.

So, whether you’re fit or unfit will help to guide what your treatment is going to be in general. Fit patients are somebody that could undergo multiple treatments, go through a transplant, have minimal toxicity, and recover fully after more intensive treatments.  

Whereas, unfit may need more assistance, and we tend to reduce the intensity of treatments. It doesn’t mean the treatments, if you’re unfit, are less effective – they can be very effective. But our goals for treatment change in that situation. And we’re looking for responses but also looking for quality of life. And then it changes also depending on the genetics of the myeloma. Our treatment for patients who have genetic changes that are high risk will change compared to those that have what are called standard risk genetic changes.  

So, that is an important point to discuss with your oncologist if you have – Do I have standard risk or high-risk genetic changes in my cancer? And does that effect my treatment? And then also, treatment in somebody who is being treated a second time or third time or beyond for their myeloma depends on what treatments you had before and how effective they were.  

And what were your toxicities or side effects from those treatments? So, all those factors play into a decision of treatment for an individual. 

Developing CLL Research and Treatment News

Developing CLL Research and Treatment News from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi provides his perspective on the goals of current CLL clinical trials, discusses approved inhibitor treatments, and shares credible resources to keep up with the latest news in research.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Choi. 

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Hesitant to Participate in a CLL Clinical Trial? What You Should Know

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, are there recent advances in CLL treatment and research that you are excited about?  

Dr. Choi:

There’s certainly a lot to be excited about as far as new treatments or new understanding of our treatments. What I see as kind of two main aims of trials right now for our patients with CLL, one is to figure out the optimal way to treat patients, especially in the first line of treatment.  

For the past few years, we’ve had two very clear options, two very clear standards, a BTK inhibitor or the combination of venetoclax and a CD20 antibody. And so, right now, there are a couple of trials both in the states and internationally that are for the first time really comparing those head-to-head. At UCSD, we’re eagerly hoping to join one of those trials as well, and so this will help us and help our patients kind of really know which of those options make the most sense for maybe different subgroups of patients.  

I guess the other main emphasis is to have new therapies available to patients in case these existing standards stop working. And fortunately, this is not a common occurrence. Resistance to BTK inhibitors and Bcl-2 inhibitors is not common, fortunately. But we have to be ready with something if that does occur for our patients.  

Certainly, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the next generation of BTK inhibitors, cellular therapies like CAR-T therapy, and other classes of medications. So, while I hope most of my patients never need those drugs or never need those trials, I think it’s important that we have those available.  

Laura Beth:

How can patients keep up to date on developing CLL research?  

Dr. Choi:

Oh, that’s a great question. I guess I sometimes ask that same question of myself. How can I stay updated on all the developments and discoveries. Yeah, I guess, yeah, certainly talking to your doctors about what other options there may be. Sometimes, that’s maybe the simplest question to ask.

Yeah, I wish online things were a little bit more straightforward. When I go onto clinicaltrials.gov, I pull up hundreds of different CLL trials, some that might not be relevant for all of my patients. I think The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and other societies and your group as well have done a great job communicating what some of the most promising areas of research are.  

Treating Relapsed/Refractory DLBCL

Treating Relapsed/Refractory DLBCL from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the options for DLBCL patients who relapse? Dr. Jane Winter shares treatment options for relapsed/refractory DLBCL and what is available for patients who have coexisting conditions or health concerns.

Dr. Jane Winter is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University. More information on Dr. Winter here.

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Winter, if a DLBCL patient doesn’t respond to treatment or relapses, what happens next? Are there additional treatment options available?  

Dr. Winter:

Absolutely, but we have some very new treatments and some new data that’s just been within the last year. So, I had mentioned earlier with regard to follicular lymphoma this CAR T-cell therapy. So, CAR T-cell therapy is now approved for certain patients who relapse. So historically, in the past, patients who were young enough and robust, healthy enough to consider what we call an autologous stem cell transplant, so, high doses of chemotherapy with stem cell rescue was the standard of care for many years. But many patients would not be eligible for that kind of therapy, first, because they were too old or they had too many medical problems, what we call comorbidities.  

But also, because in order to have a good outcome with this kind of treatment, we need to first get the disease into remission, and that can prove challenging. So, for many years, though, what we call autologous stem cell transplant was the standard of care. But a disease that is most common in people in their mid-60s and above, this was not an option for many patients, but also, many patients just never became eligible because their disease was too difficult to control. And so, in recent times, over the past six years or more, a new therapy called CAR T-cell therapy has emerged.  

This harnesses the patient’s own T cells. The T cells are collected from the blood stream, and then they are genetically engineered so that they target the marker on the lymphoma cells. It takes about three weeks or so to go through the process of altering these cells and creating these CARs, and then re-infusing them back into the patient now targeting the patient’s lymphoma. And, this is a therapy that’s incredibly promising.  

It was approved a while ago for patients in the third line, meaning if your disease came back after your first treatment, let’s say, R-CHOP, and then you receive second line treatment, but that treatment didn’t really work, you were a candidate for CAR T-cell therapy. And about 35 to 40 percent of patients would do very well with that therapy. It’s not a hundred percent, but still, it was a very good option for individuals. Now, we have clinical trials comparing patients who relapse. So, at the time the first relapse, if that relapse occurs within a year or the patient progresses while on initial treatment, CAR T-cell therapy has been shown to be better than the old standard of care, which was the second line of treatment in the stem cell transplant.  

So, we now have this very promising new strategy for patients as well as for a subset of patients who are not eligible to go on to conventional autologous stem cell transplant because they’re too old or they’ve got a heart disease or some other comorbidity that makes them not a candidate for a standard stem cell transplant. So, this is very exciting and is approved for patients with relapsed disease, or refractory disease, or disease that progresses during initial treatment, or recurs within a year as well as this group of patients who are either too old or too sick to have an autologous stem cell transplant.  

But, there are many new iterations, new variations on this theme that are under investigation right now. So, there are lots of clinical trials to consider for a patient with relapsed disease or refractory disease because we have new versions of CAR T-cell therapy that are under investigation as well as a whole list of new agents, targeted agents and what we call bite antibodies and so on.  

So, things are very promising and there’s a tremendous amount of research going on right now, much of it translating into improved responses and survival for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. 

How Is Relapsed or Transformed Follicular Lymphoma Treated?

How Is Relapsed or Transformed Follicular Lymphoma Treated? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Follicular lymphoma (FL) expert Dr. Jane Winter explains relapsed or transformed follicular lymphoma and outlines treatment approaches for these FL types.

Dr. Jane Winter is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University. More information on Dr. Winter here.

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Winter, what happens if a patient’s follicular lymphoma relapses? What is the approach to treatment? 

Dr. Winter:

And so, generally, it’s probably one in five patients whose disease sort of comes back and becomes somewhat problematic requiring repeated therapies where many, many patients have a very kind of indolent course that may require treatment intermittently, but tends to be very amenable to treatment. And then the other point to be made about follicular lymphoma is indeed that a fraction of patients every year will go on to what we call transform. That means their disease acquires and changes biologically or at least a clone of their disease changes and becomes a much more aggressive process similar to a newly diagnosed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive lymphoma.  

And these transformations then require treatment as if they were an aggressive lymphoma. And they also, despite being somewhat frightening because of the sense of changing from a low-grade to a more aggressive process, in very many cases, these are well treated with standard, especially in patients who haven’t had prior therapy for follicular lymphoma, which is rituximab (Rituxan), these patients are well treated with our standard treatment for aggressive lymphoma Rituxan CHOP chemotherapy, and do very well. So, even though that sounds like a frightening occurrence, for the vast majority, it’s very treatable. 

And patients go into remission and stay in remission for the most part, so it’s not as frightening as it might sound. And how many patients and when do they transform? There’s lots of confusing data. Basically, there’s some data that suggests that the majority of patients transform early in the first five years, whereas other data suggests that it’s sort of every year, patients are at risk so that the longer you have follicular lymphoma, perhaps, the greater the risk overall of this kind of change in the biology. But, as I said, for a good significant number of patients, this is relatively easily treated with standard chemotherapy.   

Just another point in terms of potentially curative therapies these days, we’re afraid to use that term in follicular lymphoma because it does have this tendency to sort of keep coming back over time. So, whether any treatment is truly curative remains to be seen. Perhaps a very, very small fraction of patients might be eligible, young patients, for an allogeneic stem cell transplant from someone else. But, this is not commonly pursued these days, as well as a new therapy called CAR T-cell therapy, which is a form of immunotherapy and may indeed be curative.  

But at this point, it’s really too early to make a claim of cure with that strategy. But, a very exciting new immunotherapy as well as some other new immunotherapy is something called “bite cells,” which harness our own immune system, much like the CAR-T cells do. So, lots of new things. So, these are exciting times for us as treating physicians and hematologists, but they are exciting times for patients because we have so much to offer.  

An Expert’s Perspective on Emerging Follicular Lymphoma Research

An Expert’s Perspective on Emerging Follicular Lymphoma Research from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the latest on emerging follicular lymphoma research? Dr. Jane Winter shares how follicular lymphoma treatment has advanced and provides an overview of treatment options.

Dr. Jane Winter is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University. More information on Dr. Winter here.

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Winter, is there emerging follicular lymphoma research that you are excited about?   

Dr. Winter:

So, first of all, I think it’s very important to underscore the fact that for a newly diagnosed patient with follicular lymphoma today, survival is measured in decades with an “S,” so, 10, 20-plus years. And that’s based on data that’s already becoming outdated such that it’s the likelihood with some of the newer treatment options is there’s never been a more exciting time, I often say, to be a hematologist because of all the exciting new tools we have to our trade.  

So, lots of new treatments. But, even with the old treatments, and I mean rituximab-based treatments, the outcome is excellent. We have new treatments. We have all kinds of new treatments these days for follicular lymphoma such that it’s a veritable buffet of treatment options to choose from. Nonetheless, often times the first treatment is just either a monoclonal antibody, meaning rituximab, an anti-CD20, which is a protein or marker on the surface of the lymphoma cell. This is immunotherapy, been around now for 30 years and approved for 22 years for the treatment of follicular lymphoma as well as other B-cell lymphomas.  

Other therapies that are typically used frontline include rituximab plus chemotherapy, most commonly a drug called bendamustine, which wasn’t always available, was something that was being developed in East Germany that came to the attention of the Europeans and North Americans only after German unification. And, this has become, along with Rituxan, one of the most commonly used first-line treatments for follicular lymphoma. Other options include a combination of Rituxan and an oral medication called lenalidomide (Revlimid), and this is given three weeks in a row out of every four weeks with Rituxan. Again, this anti-CD20 immunotherapy or antibody. 

And, it’s a very effective but requires some monitoring of blood counts and so on, so it is perhaps not as commonly used as Rituxan and bendamustine as a first-line therapy. But, there are so many additional new options that are either approved or coming along for all of our B-cell lymphomas, and they include many new what we call “targeted agents” as well as immunotherapy including a very new therapy called CAR T-cell therapy. But, one thing I just wanted to say, in addition to the very long anticipated survival of newly diagnosed patients today, it’s really only a small fraction of patients who get into trouble with follicular lymphoma, at least in the short term.  

Emerging CLL Treatment Approaches

Emerging CLL Treatment Approaches from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Are there emerging CLL treatments that are showing promise? Dr. Seema Bhat provides an overview of ongoing research and discusses when CLL patients should consider clinical trials. 

Dr. Seema Bhat is a hematologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James. Learn more about Dr. Bhat here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:  

Dr. Bhat, where do clinical trials fit into treatment? 

Dr. Bhat:  

So, clinical trials play a very important role to advance treatments. Clinical trials for CLL are done to test new treatments, new combinations of treatments, compare different treatments to each other. The goal of these clinical trials is to continue to do better than what we currently have available. This is how treatments improve. Despite all the advancements that we have had in CLL, in the recent years, it continues to be an incurable disease, even today. Our goal as researchers is never to stop until we get to that cure, and clinical trial is that pathway to that cure.

Katherine:

Are there emerging therapies that are showing promise? 

Dr. Bhat:

Yes, of course. There are a number of emerging therapies that are showing promise. So, we all know about ibrutinib and other BTK inhibitors. These work very well, but sometimes the disease can get resistant to these medications, meaning that it stops responding to these treatments. We are excited about this new kind of BTK inhibitor called, “pirtobrutinib,” which has shown great promise in these resistance cases, and we are hopeful that it’ll be approved soon. 

Katherine:

Are there other options that patients have? 

Dr. Bhat:

So, we all hear about what is called, “chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy,” or CAR-T therapy. This is studied under clinical investigation for CLL and looks very promising. The therapy uses the person’s own immune cell called, “T cell” to identify and attack cancer cells. 

T cells are taken from the patient’s blood and sent to a specific lab. There, the cells are modified so that they can better find and attack cancer cells. These modified T cells are then re-injected back into the patient to find and fight that cancer, to eradicate the disease. So, this looks very promising.  

Disease Monitoring: Is My AML Treatment Working?

Disease Monitoring: Is My AML Treatment Working? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Eytan Stein explains how AML treatment effectiveness is monitored and why it’s essential for patients to report any symptoms or side effects to their healthcare team.

Dr. Eytan Stein is a hematologist oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and serves as Director of the Program for Drug Development in Leukemia in Division of Hematologic Malignancies. Learn more about Dr. Stein, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Once treatment has begun, Dr. Stein, how do you know if it’s working?  

Dr. Eytan Stein:

So, that’s a good question. So, the good thing about acute myeloid leukemia when it comes to understanding what’s going on, you know, it’s a disease of the bone marrow cells. And we do bone marrow biopsies to see how things are doing. But no one likes a bone marrow biopsy. It can be a somewhat uncomfortable procedure.  

Katherine Banwell:

How often would a patient need to have a biopsy? 

Dr. Eytan Stein:

Yeah, so they have bone marrow biopsies at diagnosis, and then they often will have bone marrow biopsies two weeks to a month later.  

And then, if they’re in remission, basically any time you think if you want to check to see if they’re in remission or if you suspect the patient is relapsing. Then, you would do a bone marrow biopsy. But what I was getting at is that but you have blood. And the blood is kind of like the bellwether of what’s going on in the bone marrow.  

So, the analogy I use for my patients is, you know, when you’re driving your car and you have – you know, you don’t open the hood every day to make sure the car is running okay. You know, you’re driving your car, and if your car starts making a funny clinking sound, that’s when you open the hood.  

So, the blood is like the clinking sound. If you see something going wrong in the blood, that’s when you know you’ve got to open the hood and look under the hood. If the car is running just fine and you don’t see anything wrong in the blood, using the analogy, maybe you don’t need to do a bone marrow biopsy. 

Katherine Banwell:

What if a treatment isn’t working? What if it stops working or if the patient relapses? What do you do then? 

Dr. Eytan Stein:

Yeah, so when a patient relapses, which unfortunately happens more than we want it to, it’s important number one to do another bone marrow biopsy and at that point, do that mutational testing again because the mutations that are present at the time of diagnosis are not necessarily going to be present at the time of relapse, and sometimes, a new mutation might occur at the time of relapse.  

And again, what that mutational profile shows can help determine what the next best treatment for the patient is. There might be standard-of-care therapies. More chemotherapy might be recommended.  

When a patient relapses, I usually – excuse me – try to get them on a clinical trial because that’s the point where I think clinical trial drugs really have potentially major benefit for the patients, to help get them back into remission. 

How Do Gene Mutations Affect AML Treatment Choices?

How Do Gene Mutations Affect AML Treatment Choices? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Eytan Stein shares why AML patients should undergo molecular testing when choosing a treatment approach, explaining how targeted therapy works to treat AML patients who have specific genetic mutations.

Dr. Eytan Stein is a hematologist oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and serves as Director of the Program for Drug Development in Leukemia in Division of Hematologic Malignancies. Learn more about Dr. Stein, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Why is identification of genetic markers essential before choosing treatment?  

Dr. Eytan Stein:

Because when you know the genetic markers, you can target the genetic abnormalities, sometimes with specific targeted therapies, with therapies that fit like a key in a specific lock.  

And those targeted therapies have been shown, in some cases, to improve the survival of the patients, without much cost, without much toxicity. So, I’ll give you an example of this.  

There is a very common genetic abnormality in patients with acute myeloid leukemia called the FLT3 or FLT3 mutation. When you have that mutation, there is a targeted therapy that targets the FLT3 mutation called midostaurin (Rydapt), and it’s been shown in a very large clinical trial that the addition of the targeted FLT3 inhibitor midostaurin in combination with chemotherapy leads to better overall survival than chemotherapy alone.  

So, you need to know that information because you want to give your patient the best chance at beating the disease. And that’s why it’s also important to try to get this information back quickly. You know, no one wants to be sitting around waiting for four weeks to find out if they’ve got a specific mutation. And we’ve gotten better. I think medical centers generally have gotten better at getting this mutational information back to their doctors relatively quickly. 

Katherine Banwell:

Does every patient get this standard testing? 

Dr. Eytan Stein:

It is – does everyone get it? I don’t know. But “Should everyone get it?” is, I think, the important question. Yes, everyone should get this testing.  

It is incorporated into the NCCN and National Comprehensive Cancer Network and European Leukemia Net guidelines. It is important not only because you can think about targeted therapies, but it is also important for prognostic reasons, meaning that certain mutations lead to a higher risk of relapse, and those mutations in a patient might lead me to recommend a stem cell transplant, which is sort of the most intensive thing we can do to help prevent a relapse, while other mutations, which might be “favorable”, in quotes, they might lead me not to recommend a stem cell transplant.  

So, I think this mutational testing is the standard of care and should be done in every patient with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia.