Tag Archive for: CAR-T

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

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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.”

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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:

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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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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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?

What CAR T Research Is Ongoing to Improve Treatment Response?

What CAR T Research Is Ongoing to Improve Treatment Response?

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

What Is the Impact of CAR T-Cell Therapy Access Barriers on Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How do CAR T-cell therapy access barriers impact patients? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses factors that create CAR T-cell therapy access barriers and the impacts of FACT accreditation and the REMS program.

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Related Resources:

What Are CAR T Therapy Requirements for Care Partners?

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

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

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

What CAR T Research Is Ongoing to Improve Treatment Response?

What CAR T Research Is Ongoing to Improve Treatment Response?

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Patel, how do you perceive the impact of patient access barriers, such as geographical constraints and caregiver requirements on the widespread adoption of CAR T therapies for myeloma patients?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, so this is a huge, huge problem. I think I’m such a big CAR T fan because again, it works so well, it gives people this amazing quality of life, so once they can get it, it’s phenomenal, and people want it again, if they can get it again down the road. But you have to get there, and so the biggest barriers, I will say is insurance coverage, making sure your insurance, now most people who have insurance it will cover, but some people with Medicare, if they don’t have a secondary, that 20 percent that you have to cover is insane. I don’t think most people would not be able to do that. So that’s number one.

Number two is location. And again, if you can’t come somewhere, there’s about 200 centers in the U.S. that are FACT-accredited, and you have to be…it’s an acronym basically for anyone that does cell therapy, and you have to be accredited to be able to give CAR T, so unlike other therapies like bispecifics that are not under that jurisdiction, for CAR T, you have to have that designation, so there are quite a few centers around the country that have that.

But again, access to myeloma CAR Ts is still limited to a certain degree, and so finding a place that’s nearby and having a caregiver, these are all really, really important, but we’re hoping that in the future with better CAR Ts, we won’t have to worry about staying in the vicinity for 30 days. We’re actually trying to push already to say that a lot of our patients, the majority do really well, that after two weeks, they should be able to go back home, and we can work with their local oncologist, their local doctors to make sure everything’s okay.

I think the original CAR Ts were in lymphoma and there were some pretty significant side effects we saw, so even that can’t drive for eight weeks and all these other things that we all have to do, all our patients have to do now came from that, even though most of our patients don’t get neurotoxicity, right, in myeloma, we don’t see those things. So again, we’re trying to find novel ways to push back and say to the FDA, do we really need these patients to stay here this long when our data looks so much different and better than it does for other diseases?

So I think that’s part of it as well. Through some of our newer trials, we’re trying to see if we can decrease those recommendations that once they get approved, it won’t be a part of the REMS program and all these things that. If once it becomes part of the REMS program, we have to do it and it’s hard to reverse that. But I know a lot of the companies are, and myeloma groups are trying to get together to decrease some of that burden, because it might be a little bit too much for the majority of our patients where they don’t need it medically and I know it would help them get access to the drugs, but coming back to the novel CAR Ts, there are ways to make the CAR T in less than 48 hours now that people are testing, and if we can do that, that can really decrease your time of even having to come get your cells collected, then go back home for bridging therapy, then come back for the actual CAR T treatment.

And if we can give it to you faster and we can decrease that toxicity, then hopefully again, it could be two weeks and then we get you back home. So I think that’s the ultimate goal. I just don’t know when that will happen.


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How Can Variable Patient Groups Be Addressed in CAR T?

How Can Variable Patient Groups Be Addressed in CAR T? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Can CAR T-cell therapy address variable patient groups? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses variances in different myeloma patient groups, the KarMMa-3 study, and proactive advice for patients.

[ACT]IVATION TIP

“…if you are in a area, let’s say rural America where you don’t have access or you are in a minority population, African American, Hispanic, etcetera, or older, frail patients who are older that are considered vulnerable as well, absolutely make sure to talk to your doctors about these novel therapies because you still can get them safely and they will work. They can work. You just have to go to a center where they know how to adjust those types of therapies to make sure you get the best options out there as well.”

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Are CAR-T Clinical Trials Studying Use As a Frontline Therapy?

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A Look at Promising Strategies to Improve CAR T-Cell Therapy Access

A Look at Promising Strategies to Improve CAR T-Cell Therapy Access

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Patel, how might the heterogeneity of patient populations impact the standardization and reproducibility of CAR T therapy outcomes across different clinical settings, and what initiatives are in place to address this variability?

Dr. Krina Patel:

Yeah, I think that’s a great question because again, this is a personalized therapy. So it depends on what your myeloma is like, the genomics, the genetics of your myeloma, how aggressive is it, plus your T cells, right? And so everybody’s genetic ancestry, etcetera, is very different. So the idea of a personalized medicine, more than just even across groups of people, it’s at the individual level. And I think when you talk about different races or ethnicities, we have seen some differences in our real-world data, in very relapsed/refractory patients, where people can get great response rates still.

So, for instance, Caucasian patients versus African American patients, our response rates are still high in the 80s and 90 percent, but the toxicity is a little bit higher in our African American patients. It’s still not high grade. It’s not anything that makes me say, I’m not going to give this, but the baseline inflammatory markers are a little bit higher. And so once we get the CAR T, our patients tend to get a little bit more CRS.

They end up in the hospital a little bit longer. Now, again, this is a multivariate analysis and we couldn’t find any other difference, but when we look at KarMMa-3, which is one of our big studies that led to ide-cel (idecabtagene vicleucel) [Abecma] being approved early, we actually had an outcomes of African American patients only that we looked at and that we presented just this past TCT, and response rates were actually a little bit better.

Again, you can’t compare them because the numbers aren’t there to power that to compare, but numerically the numbers were better in terms of response rate, in terms of progression-free survival, it was actually more months that it beat the standard of care and we didn’t see more toxicity.

And so I think we do need to look at these things and make sure there’s not one group of patients has a lower efficacy for some reason, and why is that and how can we improve that? And so far, we don’t really see that. And the other is the toxicity piece, to make sure that these therapies that do cause some strange toxicities that we’re watching and seeing who might be more vulnerable to those toxicities, who do we need to maybe even prevent, do prevention strategies for, but so far we haven’t seen it.

And then I think coming back to the individual, right?So again, all of us have these different T cells that have different mutations in them, and some folks, for some reason, even with less myeloma, their T cells just expand really fast and other folks, they don’t. And so in the future to get best outcomes, we need to see how we can turn the volume lower for those folks who have really sensitive T cells.

And for those who don’t, how do we, what else can we add in combination to actually increase those T cells so that they’re actually doing a better job at killing the myeloma, right? And including the microenvironment too. So I think there’s a lot of translational work as well as the epidemiology side of things to say, okay, how do we first diagnose the problem, find the problems, and then how do we figure out how to intervene to then improve outcomes for all our patients? I think the activation tip here is that if you are in a area, let’s say rural America where you don’t have access or you are in a minority population, African American, Hispanic, etcetera, or older, frail patients who are older that are considered vulnerable as well, absolutely make sure to talk to your doctors about these novel therapies because you still can get them safely and they will work. They can work. You just have to go to a center where they know how to adjust those types of therapies to make sure you get the best options out there as well.


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Dr. Krina Patel: Why Is It Important for You to Empower Patients?

Dr. Krina Patel: Why Is It Important for You to Empower Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Why is it important to empower patients in their care? Expert Dr. Krina Patel from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses her approaches and how she engages with her patients through treatment, care, and survivorship.

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Dr. Eugene Manley: Why Is It Important for You to Empower Patients? 

Transcript:

Dr. Krina Patel:

So I think in myeloma, where our patients for the most part are not cured, they’re incurable and for the most part are on therapy lifelong. I think it’s really important that they have a community to go to, including their caregivers. There’s a lot of caregiver burnout that happens, patients, when they’re doing well or well, but when they relapse, it can be pretty dramatic and kind of take away everything again. And every time a patient’s relapsing, sometimes it feels hopeless.

And I think with all the therapies we have out there, this embarrassment of riches as we myeloma doctors like to say, we have to be able to get them through to have access to these drugs at the right time, make sure we decrease toxicity. But it’s a lot of information.

And I think for our patients, no matter how much time we spend with them, it’s just, it’s overwhelming. And I think it is for a lot of my colleagues who don’t just do myeloma all the time. I mean, it’s overwhelming for me half the time when I’m trying to see my patients and figuring out which is the next therapy. And so I really, at the first visit, talk to my patients about patient advocacy groups that are out there. And I even give them websites to go to.

At MD Anderson we’re trying to make videos for our patients so that while they’re waiting in the waiting rooms, they’ll have access to those, specifically, for CAR-T therapy and bispecifics. I think those are such great novel therapies, but they’re also high maintenance as I like to call them that there’s a lot of supportive care that’s needed for infection prophylaxis to make sure they don’t get secondary cancers, right?

All these complications that can happen, neurotoxicity, etcetera. And thankfully, for the most part, our patients do really well and they can get through it. But for those patients who end up with that, it’s really important they have this information, so they know when to contact us. And I think for my colleagues as well, we’re trying really hard to make sure we have better communication, for my patients that are in the community coming in for CAR T or for bispecific therapy, then going back to their doctors, their community doctors for the rest of their care.

So we have letters, that we come up with that we give to the patient as well as send to their doctor. We have phone numbers they can call that even if they’re back home, and they need to get ahold of someone that, they have a lifeline to say, I don’t know what to do. This is happening. And I think, it’s really important again for the patients and their caregivers to really understand, this is a lifelong journey, right?

This is not something that you’re just going to get a few cycles of treatment and then you go to survivorship clinic. And then hopefully we never have to treat again. And that this myeloma as of right now is still a continuous therapy and it could be, long periods of time between therapies. Or you might go on maintenance, for a long period of time before you need your next line of therapy, but this is a lifelong therapy that we’re going to have to do with, with everybody involved.

And I think, again, I can’t see every patient out there and most myeloma specialists can’t, but we’re happy to be a part of the team. And so really, when we can have access to things that the community might not, or be able to help in terms of, what combination is the best for this patient, and what dose reductions should we do for this specific patient?

Those are the things we would love to help our community doctors with to make sure outcomes for all our patients, those who are near us, but those who are also physically not close to us that we can still be able to help to make sure that they have the best efficacy, but also the best quality of life with this disease.

PODCAST: Myeloma Patient Expert Q&A: Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi

 

 
In this START HERE myeloma program, Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi from Mayo Clinic spotlights priorities in the rapidly expanding myeloma treatment landscape. Watch as Dr. Ailawadhi addresses pressing questions submitted by patients and families, providing invaluable guidance and reassurance in navigating the complexities of myeloma care.

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatifield:

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 is to create actionable pathways for getting the most out of myeloma treatment and survivorship.

Joining me today is Dr. Ailawadhi, back by popular demand. Dr. Ailawadhi is a respected multiple myeloma expert from Mayo Clinic. Dr. Ailawadhi’s career focus includes the treatment of plasma cell disorders like myeloma and understanding the epidemiology and pathophysiology of this disorder. It’s always such a pleasure having you, Dr. Ailawadhi. I’m really excited you’re joining us again. So thank you for joining us.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

And thanks a lot for having me, Lisa. This is excellent. I look forward to this next iteration of the Patient Empowerment Network START HERE program.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you. So before we dive into today’s discussion, please take a moment to download the program resource guide using the QR code. This guide contains pertinent information to guide you both before and after the program. And this program will provide you with a comprehensive update on the latest myeloma news and its implications for you and your family. Following that, we’ll launch into some questions that we have received from you.

So let’s start here. Dr. Ailawadhi, at this juncture in myeloma history, we are witnessing unprecedented activity, a surge of new treatment options, and a wealth of insights. Today, we are privileged to have your expertise to help us decipher these developments and shed light on the advancements shaping the landscape of myeloma care. First, we’re going to get a high-level update from Dr. Ailawadhi on what the latest myeloma news means for you and your family. And then we’re going to talk about some questions that you’ve sent in. So let’s get started with the high-level update, Dr. Ailawadhi. Can you speak to the latest news and priorities in the rapidly expanding myeloma treatment landscape?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Excellent. I think, Lisa, that’s an excellent and important question. Because as you rightly mentioned, there is such a large amount of data that is coming through for myeloma all the time. I mean, it’s almost, we kind of talk about the fact that every time you turn your shoulder or look over your shoulder, there is a new drug approved. So I can imagine this can be very overwhelming. So what I’ll say is that in my opinion, there are some categories of new data that are pertinent and important for our patients. 

The two or three out of them that come to my mind, one is what’s called CELMoDs, or there are a couple of agents there called iberdomide, mezigdomide. These are showing some interesting data. Important to keep in mind that they are somewhat related to the immunomodulatory drugs lenalidomide (Revlimid), pomalidomide (Pomalyst), but they’re showing benefit in patients who have had len and pom before and have progressed. So exciting stuff there.

We’re also seeing some interesting data about newer CAR Ts and bispecific antibodies. They are all coming up with some benefits in some cases. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the bispecifics are landing at the 60 to 70 percent response rate, and CAR Ts are typically landing at the 80 to 90 percent response rate, but there are more agents expected.

There are also some newer bispecifics in different classes, like one of them is called cevostamab, which is an FcRH5 inhibitor or targeting bispecific. So newer bispecific, not just more of the same category. And there has also been recent data about Bcl-2 inhibitors, which have been traditionally used for patients with translocation 11;14.

There have been some negative data, negative as in trials, which did not pan out with a drug called venetoclax (Venclexta), but there are two other drugs that had some recent data shown from different companies, which were exciting information. So in my mind, those are kind of the broad new drug categories. There is another, a couple of other quick things that I’ll mention.

One is we’re getting more and more information about real world experience with these new drugs. It’s good to see that CAR Ts are panning out very similar in the real world as they are in clinical trials. We’re also seeing that the side effect profile of a lot of these newer novel immunotherapy drugs is similar as seen in the clinical trials.

Racial ethnic disparities are something which are very close to my heart, and there is more and more information coming out in that. Unfortunately, highlighting the disparities more still rather than yet coming up with solutions. And I think the last thing that I feel which has been recent has been at the American Society of Hematology meeting in 2023, which was in December in San Diego.

One of the myeloma studies actually became a plenary session presentation, which is a pretty big deal for any disease area. So one thing is that it gets highlighted. Secondly, it was a combination of a regimen called isatuximab-irfc (Sarclisa) with carfilzomib (Kyprolis), lenalidomide, and dexamethasone (Decadron) in newly diagnosed patients.

It’s a randomized trial, Phase III, which was presented. I think the important part is we saw unprecedented deep responses and patients in much, much higher numbers than before becoming MRD-negative. So very deep responses. So these are kind of some very broad, but lots of highlights that I talked about.

Lisa Hatfield:  

All right. Thank you. So can you also talk about some of the newer tools for myeloma progression and relapse and what patients might want to know about that? And in particular, maybe talk a bit about MRD testing and the role of MRD testing for patients who relapse.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Excellent question. Lisa, I think the first and foremost thing an important part for our patients to learn is what are their “tumor markers,” for the, or disease markers for myeloma. We can follow myeloma by either the M spike or monoclonal protein, by light chains, by monoclonal protein in the urine or blood. And it’s important to keep that in mind because every now and then we’ll see patients who say, Hey, my ratio changed. So I’m progressing. Well, that comes after the light chains change. So it’s important to understand the role of these things.

So M spike in the urine, M spike in the serum and light chains. One of them is typically the marker for a patient. Now the MRD status or minimal residual disease that is looking for one cell, one myeloma cell from amongst 100,000 cells in the bone marrow. So it is looking at a very deep level. The most important benefit of MRD testing right now is to understand that if a patient turns MRD negative, then they have a superior outcome. Their prognosis is better. Their progression free survival, or the time before their disease comes back is longer. 

But when a patient is MRD-negative and is being followed or maintenance or whatever, if the bone marrow turns MRD-positive, then that might be the sign that the disease might be coming back. Right now, we do not keep switching drugs to get to MRD-negative. That is not the goal of treatment. The way to think about it is we want to get to MRD-negative, but that means it’s incumbent upon us to try and pick a regimen that is more likely to get to MRD-negative. That’s the way to think about it.

Let’s pick a regimen more likely to get us into MRD-negative and hope that we get to MRD-negative. We see every now and then that the patients keep switching regimens just to get to MRD-negative. That’s not the way to go because you’re just using up options too quickly, too fast. A common question that patients ask is, well, does that mean I need to get annual bone marrow biopsies and MRD testing? Probably not.

That’s too much testing. So what I suggest is that once somebody has turned MRD-negative, it’s important to keep an eye on every single thing. Now, change in any of the routine labs, imaging, new symptoms, etcetera. That’s when we switch to the bone marrow again and see if the patient has turned MRD-positive. There are clinical trials going on right now which are stopping drugs based on repeat MRD negativity or starting drugs on MRD positivity. But those are clinical trial questions.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. Thank you for that. So along those same lines, since you’re a Mayo physician, I’m curious about the mass spec testing. So if a patient say has been MRD-negative for some time, still wants to monitor at a deeper level, even though it’s not commercialized yet, do you see a role for mass spec testing on a regular basis in the future and being rolled out to community facilities also?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Absolutely, Lisa. I did not specifically bring it up because mass spec is not, like you rightly said, is not yet commercially available. Now we’re doing mass spec quite frequently at Mayo Clinic. Basically mass spec is taking up a blood sample. Important to keep in mind, it’s not a bone marrow test, it’s a blood test, but it looks for those abnormal proteins based on the protein weight at a much, much lower level. Our SPEP or serum protein electrophoresis does not pick up very small quantities of the protein mass spec does. So in an essence, the mass spec, if somebody is negative on that, turning mass spec negative to mass spec positive may be an earlier sign of the disease coming back rather than the SPEP yet turning positive. But as you rightly said, it is not yet commercially available. I do see the benefit of it.

There is more and more data coming in favor of it, and there was data that was also at ASH. So I do see that in the future we’ll be able to most likely have it available more widely. At this point, it is just a blood test to attempt to check the disease level at a much deeper level and be able to notice if the disease is progressing sooner than our currently available tools.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great. Thank you. And as a patient, I like to have one more data point that they can get from my blood, not from my bone marrow to assess the disease. So thank you for explaining that. Regarding survivorship, patients are living longer with myeloma in general because of the novel therapies that have come out in the past few years. So how is myeloma survivorship evolving, and what’s different now than it was five or 10 years ago in terms of treatment planning?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Yeah, I think it’s very important to keep that in mind. When I see a newly diagnosed patient, I’m not just telling them, “Hey, this is your induction therapy, and your transplant is the goal.’ We’re trying our best to decide that patient’s life journey with myeloma over the next 10, 15 and hopefully more years. So we’re trying to pick and choose the regimen that is most likely going to help the patient the most today and most likely will give a longer duration of the response. So when you say survivorship, that also very importantly brings up the point that patients are living with myeloma longer. We have to manage their health overall. So looking for any side effects from treatment, managing them very well so the patient is able to stay on the treatment and maintain good quality of life.

There are actually, are clinical trials looking at stopping treatment when there is a very deep, prolonged response. Again, going towards survivorship and giving the patient’s quality of life. There is looking for other cancers. In fact, I had a patient in the clinic and we were talking about just myeloma in general and I was telling them, “Okay, please remember you may not want to do a colonoscopy, but you already have one myeloma cancer diagnosis. The risk of subsequent cancers is always there in any cancer patient.” So that was a male person. So I said, “Okay, please do not miss your colonoscopy. Please do not miss your prostate screening and whatever is age-appropriate must be done.” So managing everything because myeloma is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

We want to make sure that we pace ourselves well so we manage all the symptoms, all the signs. Bone health becomes much, much more important because the same bone structure is now going to carry us longer and many more years. And as you rightly said, planning, which treatment comes first, which comes next, when does CAR T come? It’s not that everybody must get CAR T today. That’s not the answer. So what to use when becomes extremely more important.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you for that. And thank you, Dr. Ailawadhi, for that important reminder. All of you watching, get your regular screenings, like he said, prostate cancer, mammograms, colonoscopies, get it done. So thank you for that.

One of the things that comes up with that regular, not regular screening, but monitoring after certain therapies for future malignancies, there’s been some discussions about post-CAR T, particularly with T-cell malignancies and monitoring for that. Can you just give a little description of that and any concerns that you have with that or any encouragement you have regarding that and whether that weighs into your treatment options that you give to patients when they are asking about CAR T therapy?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Absolutely. Extremely important question, Lisa. This really had a lot of discussion going on. It’s been going on for the past few months now. Okay. So first let’s explain the landscape. The FDA reviewed CAR T-cell treatment because of the fact that there were about 19 T-cell malignancies noted in several thousand patients.

Out of those 19 cases of T-cell malignancies, there was one case of multiple myeloma to the best of my knowledge. Now, risk of subsequent cancers is something, unfortunately, every cancer patient lives with, but in myeloma, we have known about that, especially from our historical knowledge of second malignancies with lenalidomide-based maintenance therapy post-transplant. So subsequent malignancies have always been a risk. There is some risk that is being talked about with CAR T, but frankly speaking, the way I look at it, the risk is significantly lesser than the potential benefit.

Because remember when these CAR T therapies, the two agents got approved in myeloma, they were approved in a situation that there was no standard therapy. And we saw somewhere about 70, 75 percent response rate with one of them and about 98 percent response rate with the other one. So in a setting where there was nothing, you can see the degree of benefit. And the risk of second malignancies is relatively small. So we must discuss this.

A patient must be aware of it, but I think the benefit is way more than the risk. So we document, we discuss, we have specific documentation that we do and specific information that we share with patients, but I think still the benefit is significantly more than the risk.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great. Thank you so much for explaining that. And for any of you out there watching this, Dr. Ailawadhi is a myeloma specialist, and I highly encourage anybody who is looking at CAR T therapy or even for a first consult for myeloma, seek out even one consult from a myeloma specialist. It is so important in trying to understand these therapies and any fears you may have regarding those therapies and the risks of that. So really appreciate that, Dr. Ailawadhi. Thank you. So I think it’s time now to start answering questions from patients that we received from all of you in the audience.

Please remember, this is not a substitute for medical care. Always consult with your medical team. And we are going to jump right in, Dr. Ailawadhi. We have a lot of questions from patients here and I’ll just start with the first one. This patient is asking, my M spike keeps rising in spite of chemo. What can I do?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Very important question, Lisa. Every patient must understand what their disease marker is. This patient is asking about the M spike, which is the monoclonal spike, whether it’s in the blood or in the urine. And if the M spike is continuing to increase and there is a significant increase, significant is defined by at least 25 percent from the nadir or from the bottom most point with the, at least a absolute increase of 0.5 gram per deciliter. So half a gram per deciliter. So we want a 25 percent increase, but we also want at least 0.5 gram per deciliter.

So if somebody had an M spike of one at their best point, then the increase to 1.5 is significant. If somebody had the M spike of 0.2, then it’s not the 25 percent increase, it’s the 0.5 that must happen. So they hit 0.7 and that’s a significant increase. So that’s how we think about M spike, 25 percent with an absolute of at least 0.5 gram per deciliter.

If that is indeed happening, this would be considered a biochemical progression. And at that point, it should be considered to switch around the treatment because we don’t want the disease to grow to the point that there are actually symptoms showing up or organ damage happening. We want to be able to capture the disease progression sooner and act upon it.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great, thank you. Do you have any recommendations for people who, as we might have some patients watching this, who are light chain only? Any guidelines on if those numbers are rising?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

That’s an excellent question too. So if somebody has light chains as their marker, we are looking at an increase in the involved serum free light chain. So if somebody has kappa as their marker, the kappa is going up, or if they have lambda as the marker, the lambda is going up. Typically, if both of them go up, that is not disease progression. That could be coming from kidney dysfunction. Somebody is dehydrated and they get labs checked. Both kappa and lambda might be elevated. Again, a 25 percent increase in the absolute. But at the same time, we are also looking at at least 10 milligram per deciliter change.

So if somebody had a light chain of two milligram per deciliter, if it goes to 12, that might be a significant change. But I can say that light chains are a little bit more volatile and they do get affected by our fluid status. So if I ever notice a patient with a light chain increase, I’m more likely to repeat the test very soon, maybe even at a couple of days, one week interval, just to make sure that there is a trend rather than just a fluctuating light chain.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. Thank you for that information.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

And I should maybe, very quickly add, we do not check light chains in the urine. Light chains should be checked in the blood. Urine light chains are very nonspecific and there’s no need to test them.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. That’s helpful also. So patients don’t have to walk around with their big orange jugs full of fluids. So thank you. All right. This might be a complicated question to answer. But in general terms, for those who relapse for the first time, what are the best treatment options?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

I think that’s a very important, and I can imagine a scary situation. So somebody who relapses in general, not just even the first time, the factors that are taken into account for deciding what treatment they should get, there are broadly three categories of factors. Patient factors deciding what’s the age, what’s the other comorbidities, are they diabetic, are they heart disease, kidney dysfunction, because those things go into the decision of what may or may not be given. So patient factors.

Also importantly, how close are you to your treatment center? Can you come in for infusion or injection drugs time? And again, can you prefer or do you prefer oral drugs only? Et cetera. Those things become important. Then that…so that’s patient factors and disease factors. How fast is the progression? Is it high-risk disease, standard risk disease? Is it biochemical progression like the previous person asked?

Or is it actually a clinical progression in which there’s kidney dysfunction or anemia or bone disease? Because the choices and the urgency of treatment may change. So patient factors, disease factors, and then drug factors are the third class or third category, which is what have you had before? How long have you been on it? Are you on maintenance or not? Is your disease considered refractory to a certain agent, meaning resistant to a certain agent? Typically, if you were on a treatment and your disease is progressing, that same drug may not be used again.

And there are some times that we will reuse a drug, but generally not. We can use the same class, but we may not typically use the same drug. So I think the choice of treatment depends on all of those factors put in. And then we come up with one or two or three regimens and we discuss them with patients. And, of course, being an academic, physician, I must say there is always, you must always seek out good clinical trials if they’re available to you. That is the way our field moves forward.

Lisa Hatfield:

Yes, thank you for that information. So we have another patient asking, “Do myeloma patients require multiple prior therapies prior to being eligible for CAR T?” And what’s the rationale for not implementing CAR T immediately, which probably has to do with FDA approval based on clinical trials at this point?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Absolutely. You’re absolutely right, Lisa. So any drug, let alone CAR T, any drug can only be given in the situation that it is approved by the FDA. So basically in accordance with that drug’s FDA approval label. Currently, CAR T-cell therapy is approved in the U.S. after at least four prior lines of therapy. And the patient must have had treatment with at least one proteasome inhibitor,  for which we have three drugs, bortezomib (Velcade), ixazomib (Ninlaro), and carfilzomib. They must have been treated with at least one prior immunomodulatory drug; lenalidomide, thalidomide (Thalomid), pomalidomide. And they must have been previously treated by at least one monoclonal antibody, daratumumab (Darzalex) or Isatuximab (Sarclisa).

Once the patient has had all these criteria met, they’ve become a candidate for CAR T-cell therapy. Frankly, we cannot just use a drug anywhere because we cannot use a drug where it has not shown to be of benefit. And importantly, it has not shown to be of any risk. So CAR T-cell therapy in the first line setting is being studied in clinical trials, but is not FDA-approved. Currently approved only after four prior lines, but the FDA is reviewing data for both the CAR T’s to see if they may be available sooner. As of right now, that approval is still pending.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay, thank you. We’re hopeful that that will happen soon.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Hopeful.

Lisa Hatfield:

Yeah. So interesting question from a patient, “Does CAR-T therapy actually change one’s DNA?”

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

No. The CAR T therapy does not change one’s DNA. What happens is, there are T cells taken out of a patient. The DNA of those T cells is modified and then those T cells are given back to the patient. Those T cells do not go and integrate into your other healthy body cells or your stem cells, et cetera. Those T cells, it’s almost like giving a boost of immunity, which is targeted against your myeloma. So those T cells go in and they fill those myeloma cells. Now we hope that those T cells perpetuate and teach or create some memory T cells and that immunity lasts a little bit longer. But all of that genetic modification stays within the T cells. It does not integrate anywhere else.

Now, I know there was a previous question about T-cell lymphomas, that is related to this question in a way because the risk that is theoretical is, that that genetic modification in the T cells might make those T cells replicate uncontrollably leading to a T-cell cancer or T-cell lymphoma. But I’m saying that this is theoretical because while it is possible, it happens extremely rarely and even in the cases where the cancer happened, it has been seen that the cancer may not come from that portion of the DNA that was…that’s where the modification was done. So, low risk.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. Thank you very much for that.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. So what would be the next steps, Dr. Ailawadhi for a patient who’s had CAR T and reaches a relapse state or is relapsed?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Yep. This is something, unfortunately is the truth of the matter in myeloma at least that we are, we don’t seek cures. We have had some long remissions. I have, for example, patients who are now reaching three, three-and-a-half years of remission on CAR T treatment who received it on clinical trials even before they got FDA-approved.

But, unfortunately, the disease does come back. So what happens is, we are seeing data that the novel, other novel immunotherapies like bispecific antibodies, even the ones who go after the same target as CAR T, BCMA targeting bispecifics, they do have some response rates, good response rates in post CAR T setting. So the bispecific antibodies by themselves may give us 60 to 65 percent response, but in the post CAR T setting, that response might go down to 40, 45 percent. So less responses, but still possible.

There are also bispecific antibody. There is one available, which is not against BCMA, it is against GPRC5D. That’s a bispecific called talquetamab-tgvs (Talvey). So a novel target. There is…there are of course a lot of clinical trials. There are some clinical trials that are even looking at CAR T post-CAR T. So different kind of a CAR T. Those clinical trials are going out. So what I would suggest is that if your disease progresses after CAR T-cell treatment, you should very strongly consider getting to a specialist myeloma center and get an opinion like you mentioned, Lisa.

That is so important because the choice of treatment is extremely important at that time. And we are trying our best to sequence all the options we have, in a way, actually one of my patients mentioned, one of these days, Hey, does that mean that I’m basically buying time till something new and exciting comes along? And I said in a way that is true. That we are trying to stretch all our treatments and get to the point that something new and promising just like CAR T comes, and hopefully we get longer benefits again.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you for that. So when you say there’s a possibility of CAR T and then a post-CAR T maybe a second CAR T. Would that be a different target then?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

So there could be a different target. I have, in fact, just yesterday I saw a patient who had received one CAR T in a clinical trial and then they were subsequently able to receive a CAR T standard of care, which had been FDA approved. So they used different CAR Ts, but one was in clinical trials and one was standard of care.

Lisa Hatfield:

Oh, great. Okay. Again, important to see a myeloma specialist to tease out all this information. Thank you. All right. This patient is asking, “I’m 81 and living with comorbidities. The myeloma was diagnosed after bone marrow test. How is treatment fitness determined?” And also a question about that is if you’re given an ECOG status of something you don’t like it, can that be improved after you’ve had treatment?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Absolutely.

Lisa Hatfield:

Maybe be eligible for a trial or something.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Correct. Correct. That is so important. When this patient mentioned that they’re 81-year-old and they’re living with comorbidities, I think, so when I’m talking to a patient who’s new to me, it’s very important for me to try to tease out what was their performance status or their fitness status prior to myeloma. Because my goal is to try to get them as close to that as possible. Now if this patient is saying that they were already quite frail before the diagnosis of myeloma and myeloma is added to the frailty, then it becomes a little tricky because we’re starting in a difficult spot. We do determine fitness by asking questions, simple questions like, what can a patient do at baseline? Can they do grocery store or grocery shopping by themselves? Can they walk around the block? Do they get short of breath? Et cetera.

And frankly, there are 81-year-olds who are playing golf every day and are fitter than me. So I’m just saying that age by itself is not the criteria. And, Lisa, like you rightly mentioned, if there are fitness issues coming from the disease itself, then that’s the time that we actually have to work with the treatment, get the treatment started, and then assess the fitness a couple of months later, a couple of cycles later. Because the treatment may have worked and may have improved the fitness quite a bit.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great thank you for that. So this person is asking, their husband is starting maintenance therapy, so I am assuming they just finished induction therapy, having leg pains mostly at night. Could this be a form of peripheral neuropathy or is maybe from bisphosphonates or from any of the medications that maybe were used during induction?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

So, excellent question. So, this is almost going back to that survivorship question that we discussed earlier, that it’s so important to manage the side effects and maintain quality of life. So, a lot of patients with myeloma will say that I have cramping or symptoms or some pins and needles at night more so. Part of it is because body’s at rest, relaxed, things, symptoms become more focused. Yes, it could be peripheral neuropathy, but at the same time certain drugs caused muscle cramping or what’s called myalgias, sometimes maintenance therapies can cause that.

It’s important for somebody to be able to determine is it coming from muscles or nerves? Is it coming because some electrolytes are abnormal. Like one of the common things is low magnesium or low potassium can cause neuropathy, for example, or cramping. I’ve had patients who will get some over-the-counter lotions or some forms et cetera, which are infused with some electrolytes and say that they feel some benefit. So topical things are good. So I think it’s important to figure out is it muscle or nerve and is it coming from drugs or disease? And that’s where your physician can help tease it out.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay, thank you. So we have a patient who is talking about her genetic abnormalities, but has been through both auto and allo stem cell transplant in the last two years and has relapsed. And is asking, “Can CAR T-cell therapy help me?” And would she even be eligible for CAR T therapy given the allotransplant?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

That’s an important question. So first of all, sorry to hear that, that your disease is behaving that aggressively, that you’ve had both the transplants in the past two years and still having issues. So yes, CAR T can still be used after an allotransplant. There are some criteria. You should not be on any graft versus host suppressive medications, and you should not have any active graft versus host disease going on. So depending on those, yes patients can get CAR T post. And, in fact, I’ve had a couple of patients who’ve had CAR T after allotransplant.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great, thank you. I’m sure that’ll give this patient some hope. Are there any studies showing that treatment can be tapered? Tapered to by daily, once 90 percent reduction in myeloma has occurred with various therapies. So in general, you may know what medication this patient’s talking about, but is that possible to do that, to taper therapy?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

So, absolutely, first of all, in myeloma care, Lisa, you had mentioned initially that as somebody went to maintenance, they have had induction. So there are these terms used for categories of treatment, induction, consolidation, maintenance. But if the disease gets controlled adequately at a certain time point, the treatment can be modified to a maintenance. It depends on the regimen.

Some regimens, for example, we are able to get rid of the steroids after a certain time and then in certain regimens the drugs can be reduced in dose or frequency, et cetera. All of the drugs we use have maintenance regimens and maintenance doses. But I should put a word of caution there. I see very frequently that the moment the labs improve, this quote unquote “maintenance” is brought in.

That’s not the right way to do things. The right way is to go back to the clinical trial based on which this regimen was started. And according to that clinical trial, after however many cycles of treatment the maintenance was supposed to happen, it should happen. So if I’ll very quickly say if somebody stays, starts on a regimen and within four months their M spike comes down, and now it has plateaued. Because our drugs are so good that they work that fast. And somebody says, “Okay, four months of that is enough, let’s save it for the future. Let’s go to maintenance.” I would say, “Absolutely not.”

In fact, there is data suggested from a couple of regimens that if significant modifications were made prior to one year of the regimen, then the outcomes were inferior. And I’m not going in specific regimens and I’m not saying that that is applicable to everything, but what I’m saying is, yes, maintenance and tapering is possible. In fact, there are clinical trials looking at even stopping medication. But when and how that change is to be made is very very important. It’s critical. If your physician is not comfortable about that time point, reach out to a myeloma specialist. They should be able to guide when and how to reduce or taper or put on maintenance.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you. And that’s very important what you said about induction therapy. Go back to the clinical trial and look and see what the clinical trial said as far as how long that treatment should last because it is exciting as a patient when you start seeing those numbers dropping exponentially. They’re just plummeting, and you want to go off it, you don’t feel great. It’s hard to stay on a therapy for 6 to 12 months that you don’t really enjoy and nobody really does. So that’s important. And then maybe talk about maintenance therapy later. It would be nice to have limited duration maintenance, sometime in the future for induction therapy. Stick with what the clinical trial says. So, okay, this patient is asking another really important question, “I have myeloma and now my daughter does as well. She’s 37, is multiple myeloma hereditary?”

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

I’m sorry to hear about this situation and I’m so sorry that your daughter who’s 37 got diagnosed. There is a small, very small number of very young patients and I’m saying using this term very young, which is just a generic thing that I’ve said because myeloma median age of diagnosis 68. I saw a patient who was diagnosed at 33 and they’re 40 now and they’ve already gone through every single thing that they can think of. And we were talking about clinical trials. So, typically myeloma is not hereditary. It is not something that is passed along through the generations. But what I would say is that there is, if this sort of a situation is happening that you have myeloma and now your daughter has it at a young age, it is important for you to consider getting genetic counseling.

So a genetic counsel for them to be able to look deeper into it. There is not a very standard specific test, so for me to say, Hey, you go and get this genetic test done and that’ll find out this mutation, whatever. But it’s important to get, go through some genetic counseling for them to be able to look a little bit deeper, some next-generation sequencing, what is called germline testing or somatic testing. They should be able to compare both the parent and the daughter’s disease as well as what’s called germline, which is their native DNA, which they were born with, to see if there is anything that jumps out of that. But that would be important to go through at a larger cancer center or if that service is available through your local physician also. That would be great.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great, thank you. Well, I think that’s it for our questions. That’s all that we have time for. But Dr. Ailawadhi, thank you so much for once again, being part of our Patient Empowerment Network START HERE Program. Because it really is these kinds of conversations that help patients, me included, feel more empowered to take questions back to our providers and our healthcare team. So thank you so much for joining us and thank you out there to everybody who’s watching this program, we appreciate you and we appreciate your time and expertise.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Thanks and I look forward to the next time.

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you. I’m Lisa Hatfield. Thank you for joining this Patient Empowerment Network Program and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

Is Myeloma Research Examining Sequencing of CAR T and Bispecifics?

Is Myeloma Research Examining Sequencing of CAR T and Bispecifics? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Is the sequencing of CAR T-cell therapy and bispecific antibodies being examined in myeloma studies? Expert Dr. Ola Landgren from University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center discusses what’s known about sequencing of CAR T and bispecifics and what needs further study in clinical trials.

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See More from START HERE Myeloma

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What Are the Latest Artificial Intelligence Advancements for Myeloma?

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

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.


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Targeting of Myeloma Disease Progression and Bispecific Antibody Advantages

Targeting of Myeloma Disease Progression and Bispecific Antibody Advantages from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can myeloma progression and bispecific antibodies be used for myeloma care? Expert Dr. Ola Landgren from University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center discusses how disease progression and genomic features can be targeted and the role that he perceives for bispecific antibodies in myeloma care. 

Download GuideDescargar Guía

See More from START HERE Myeloma

Related Programs:

What Myeloma Patient Monitoring Occurs After Induction Therapy?

Is Myeloma Research Examining Sequencing of CAR T and Bispecifics?

What Are the Benefits of Myeloma Consults and Second Opinions?


Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

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 outcomes?

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.


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Myeloma Patient Expert Q&A: Dr. Ola Landgren

Myeloma Patient Expert Q&A: Dr. Ola Landgren from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

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.


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How is Treatment Fitness Determined in Multiple Myeloma?

How is Treatment Fitness Determined in Multiple Myeloma? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How is treatment suitability assessed in myeloma care? Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi, an expert from Mayo Clinic, elaborates on the factors taken into account when determining the appropriateness of treatment for myeloma patients.

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Oh, great. Okay. Again, important to see a myeloma specialist to tease out all this information. Thank you. All right. This patient is asking, “I’m 81 and living with comorbidities. The myeloma was diagnosed after bone marrow test. How is treatment fitness determined?” And also a question about that is if you’re given an ECOG status of something you don’t like it, can that be improved after you’ve had treatment?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Absolutely.

Lisa Hatfield:

Maybe be eligible for a trial or something.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Correct. Correct. That is so important. When this patient mentioned that they’re 81-year-old and they’re living with comorbidities, I think, so when I’m talking to a patient who’s new to me, it’s very important for me to try to tease out what was their performance status or their fitness status prior to myeloma. Because my goal is to try to get them as close to that as possible.

Now if this patient is saying that they were already quite frail before the diagnosis of myeloma and myeloma is added to the frailty, then it becomes a little tricky because we’re starting in a difficult spot. We do determine fitness by asking questions, simple questions like, what can a patient do at baseline? Can they do grocery store or grocery shopping by themselves? Can they walk around the block? Do they get short of breath? Et cetera.

And frankly, there are 81-year-olds who are playing golf every day and are fitter than me. So I’m just saying that age by itself is not the criteria. And, Lisa, like you rightly mentioned, if there are fitness issues coming from the disease itself, then that’s the time that we actually have to work with the treatment, get the treatment started, and then assess the fitness a couple of months later, a couple of cycles later. Because the treatment may have worked and may have improved the fitness quite a bit.


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Navigating Myeloma CAR T-Cell Relapse: Patient Next Steps

Navigating Myeloma CAR T-Cell Relapse: Patient Next Steps from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are next steps for myeloma CAR T-cell patients who experience relapse? Expert Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi from Mayo Clinic explains options for relapsed myeloma patients and shares patient advice.

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay. So what would be the next steps, Dr. Ailawadhi, for a patient who’s had CAR T and reaches a relapse state or is relapsed?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Yep. This is something, unfortunately is the truth of the matter in myeloma at least that we are, we don’t seek cures. We have had some long remissions. I have, for example, patients who are now reaching three, three-and-a-half years of remission on CAR T treatment who received it on clinical trials even before they got FDA-approved.

But, unfortunately, the disease does come back. So what happens is, we are seeing data that the novel, other novel immunotherapies like bispecific antibodies, even the ones who go after the same target as CAR T, BCMA targeting bispecifics, they do have some response rates, good response rates in post CAR T setting. So the bispecific antibodies by themselves may give us 60 to 65 percent response, but in the post CAR T setting, that response might go down to 40, 45 percent. So less responses, but still possible.

There are also bispecific antibodies. There is one available, which is not against BCMA, it is against GPRC5D. That’s a bispecific called talquetamab-tgvs (Talvey). So a novel target. There is…there are of course a lot of clinical trials. There are some clinical trials that are even looking at CAR T post-CAR T. So different kind of a CAR T. Those clinical trials are going out. So what I would suggest is that if your disease progresses after CAR T-cell treatment, you should very strongly consider getting to a specialist myeloma center and get an opinion like you mentioned, Lisa.

That is so important because the choice of treatment is extremely important at that time. And we are trying our best to sequence all the options we have, in a way, actually one of my patients mentioned, one of these days, ”Hey, does that mean that I’m basically buying time till something new and exciting comes along?” And I said, “In a way that is true. That we are trying to stretch all our treatments and get to the point that something new and promising just like CAR T comes, and hopefully we get longer benefits again.”

Lisa Hatfield:

So when you say there’s a possibility of CAR T and then a post-CAR T maybe a second CAR T. Would that be a different target then?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

So there could be a different target. I have, in fact, I saw a patient who had received one CAR T in a clinical trial and then they were subsequently able to receive a CAR T standard of care, which had been FDA-approved. So they used different CAR Ts, but one was in clinical trials and one was standard of care.


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Myeloma Treatment Timing: Prior Therapies and FDA Approval Rationale

Myeloma Treatment Timing: Prior Therapies and FDA Approval Rationale from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What concerns do myeloma patients need to know about CAR T-cell therapy? Expert Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi from Mayo Clinic explains patient qualification for CAR T-cell therapy, including the number and type of prior therapies.

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

So we have another patient asking, “Do myeloma patients require multiple prior therapies prior to being eligible for CAR T?” And what’s the rationale for not implementing CAR T immediately, which probably has to do with FDA approval based on clinical trials at this point?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

So any drug, let alone CAR T, any drug can only be given in the situation that it is approved by the FDA. So basically in accordance with that drug’s FDA approval label. Currently, CAR T-cell therapy is approved in the U.S. after at least four prior lines of therapy. And the patient must have had treatment with at least one proteasome inhibitor, for which we have three drugs, bortezomib (Velcade), ixazomib (Ninlaro), and carfilzomib. They must have been treated with at least one prior immunomodulatory drug; lenalidomide (Revlimid), thalidomide (Thalomid), pomalidomide.

And they must have been previously treated by at least one monoclonal antibody, daratumumab (Darzalex) or Isatuximab (Sarclisa). Once the patient has had all these criteria met, they’ve become a candidate for CAR T-cell therapy. Frankly, we cannot just use a drug anywhere because we cannot use a drug where it has not shown to be of benefit. And importantly, it has not shown to be of any risk. So CAR T-cell therapy in the first line setting is being studied in clinical trials, but is not FDA-approved. Currently approved only after four prior lines, but the FDA is reviewing data for both the CAR Ts to see if they may be available sooner. As of right now, that approval is still pending.

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay, thank you. We’re hopeful that that will happen soon.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Hopeful.

Lisa Hatfield:

Yeah. So an interesting question from a patient, “Does CAR-T therapy actually change one’s DNA?”

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

No. The CAR T therapy does not change one’s DNA. What happens is, there are T cells taken out of a patient. The DNA of those T cells is modified and then those T cells are given back to the patient. Those T cells do not go and integrate into your other healthy body cells or your stem cells, et cetera. Those T cells, it’s almost like giving a boost of immunity, which is targeted against your myeloma. So those T cells go in and they fill those myeloma cells.

Now we hope that those T cells perpetuate and teach or create some memory T cells and that immunity lasts a little bit longer. But all of that genetic modification stays within the T cells. It does not integrate anywhere else. Now, I know there was a previous question about T-cell lymphomas, that is related to this question in a way because the risk that is theoretical is, that that genetic modification in the T cells might make those T cells replicate uncontrollably leading to a T-cell cancer or T-cell lymphoma. But I’m saying that this is theoretical because while it is possible, it happens extremely rarely and even in the cases where the cancer happened, it has  been seen that the cancer may not come from that portion of the DNA that was…that’s where the modification was done. So, low risk.


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How Are Myeloma Survivorship and Treatment Planning Evolving?

How Are Myeloma Survivorship and Treatment Planning Evolving? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How have myeloma treatment planning and survivorship evolved? Expert Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi from Mayo Clinic discusses how patient outlooks have changed and the impact to patient treatment options and doctor-patient communication.

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What Are Guidelines for Rising Myeloma Marker Levels?


Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

So how is myeloma survivorship evolving, and what’s different now than it was five or 10 years ago in terms of treatment planning?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Yeah, I think it’s very important to keep that in mind. When I see a newly diagnosed patient, I’m not just telling them, “Hey, this is your induction therapy, and your transplant is the goal.’ We’re trying our best to decide that patient’s life journey with myeloma over the next 10, 15 and hopefully more years. So we’re trying to pick and choose the regimen that is most likely going to help the patient the most today and most likely will give a longer duration of the response.

So when you say survivorship, that also very importantly brings up the point that patients are living with myeloma longer. We have to manage their health overall. So looking for any side effects from treatment, managing them very well so the patient is able to stay on the treatment and maintain good quality of life.

There are actually, clinical trials looking at stopping treatment when there is a very deep, prolonged response. Again, going towards survivorship and giving the patient’s quality of life. There is looking for other cancers. In fact, I had a patient in the clinic and we were talking about just myeloma in general and I was telling them, “Okay, please remember you may not want to do a colonoscopy, but you already have one myeloma cancer diagnosis.

The risk of subsequent cancers is always there in any cancer patient.” So that was a male person. So I said, “Okay, please do not miss your colonoscopy. Please do not miss your prostate screening and whatever is age-appropriate must be done.” So managing everything because myeloma is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

We want to make sure that we pace ourselves well so we manage all the symptoms, all the signs. Bone health becomes much, much more important because the same bone structure is now going to carry us longer and many more years. And as you rightly said, planning, which treatment comes first, which comes next, when does CAR T come? It’s not that everybody must get CAR T today. That’s not the answer. So what to use when becomes extremely more important.


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Navigating Priorities in the Expanding Myeloma Treatment Landscape

Navigating Priorities in the Expanding Myeloma Treatment Landscape from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should myeloma patients know about the latest treatments and monitoring? Expert Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi from Mayo Clinic shares updates about new research and treatments as well as new tools for monitoring myeloma progression and relapse.

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See More from START HERE Myeloma

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How Are Myeloma Survivorship and Treatment Planning Evolving?

Is There a Link Between CAR-T Therapy and T-Cell Malignancies?

What Are Guidelines for Rising Myeloma Marker Levels?

What Are Guidelines for Rising Myeloma Marker Levels?


Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Ailawadhi, can you speak to the latest news and priorities in the rapidly expanding myeloma treatment landscape?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

I think, Lisa, that’s an excellent and important question. Because as you rightly mentioned, there is such a large amount of data that is coming through for myeloma all the time. I mean, it’s almost, we kind of talk about the fact that every time you turn your shoulder or look over your shoulder, there is a new drug approved. So I can imagine this can be very overwhelming. So what I’ll say is that in my opinion, there are some categories of new data that are pertinent and important for our patients.

The two or three out of them that come to my mind, one is what’s called CELMoDs, or there are a couple of agents there called iberdomide, mezigdomide. These are showing some interesting data. Important to keep in mind that they are somewhat related to the immunomodulatory drugs lenalidomide (Revlimid), pomalidomide (Pomalyst), but they’re showing benefit in patients who have had len and pom before and have progressed. So exciting stuff there.

We’re also seeing some interesting data about newer CAR Ts and bispecific antibodies. They are all coming up with some benefits in some cases. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the bispecifics are landing at the 60 to 70 percent response rate, and CAR Ts are typically landing at the 80 to 90 percent response rate, but there are more agents expected.

There are also some newer bispecifics in different classes, like one of them is called cevostamab, which is an FcRH5 inhibitor or targeting bispecific. So newer bispecific, not just more of the same category. And there has also been recent data about Bcl-2 inhibitors, which have been traditionally used for patients with translocation 11;14.

There have been some negative data, negative as in trials, which did not pan out with a drug called venetoclax (Venclexta), but there are two other drugs that had some recent data shown from different companies, which were exciting information. So in my mind, those are kind of the broad new drug categories. There is another, a couple of other quick things that I’ll mention.

One is we’re getting more and more information about real world experience with these new drugs. It’s good to see that CAR Ts are panning out very similar in the real world as they are in clinical trials. We’re also seeing that the side effect profile of a lot of these newer novel immunotherapy drugs is similar as seen in the clinical trials.

Racial ethnic disparities are something which are very close to my heart, and there is more and more information coming out in that. Unfortunately, highlighting the disparities more still rather than yet coming up with solutions. And I think the last thing that I feel which has been recent has been at the American Society of Hematology meeting in 2023, which was in December in San Diego. One of the myeloma studies actually became a plenary session presentation, which is a pretty big deal for any disease area. So one thing is that it gets highlighted. Secondly, it was a combination of a regimen called isatuximab-irfc (Sarclisa) with carfilzomib (Kyprolis), lenalidomide, and dexamethasone (Decadron) in newly diagnosed patients.

It’s a randomized trial, Phase III, which was presented. I think the important part is we saw unprecedented deep responses and patients in much, much higher numbers than before becoming MRD-negative. So very deep responses. So these are kind of some very broad, but lots of highlights that I talked about.

Lisa Hatfield:

So can you also talk about some of the newer tools for myeloma progression and relapse and what patients might want to know about that? And in particular, maybe talk a bit about MRD testing and the role of MRD testing for patients who relapse.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Excellent question. Lisa, I think the first and foremost thing an important part for our patients to learn is what are their “tumor markers,” for the, or disease markers for myeloma. We can follow myeloma by either the M spike or monoclonal protein, by light chains, by monoclonal protein in the urine or blood. And it’s important to keep that in mind because every now and then we’ll see patients who say, Hey, my ratio changed. So I’m progressing. Well, that comes after the light chains change. So it’s important to understand the role of these things. So M spike in the urine, M spike in the serum and light chains. One of them is typically the marker for a patient.

Now the MRD status or minimal residual disease that is looking for one cell, one myeloma cell from amongst 100,000 cells in the bone marrow. So it is looking at a very deep level. The most important benefit of MRD testing right now is to understand that if a patient turns MRD negative, then they have a superior outcome. Their prognosis is better. Their progression free survival, or the time before their disease comes back is longer. 

But when a patient is MRD-negative and is being followed or maintenance or whatever, if the bone marrow turns MRD-positive, then that might be the sign that the disease might be coming back. Right now, we do not keep switching drugs to get to MRD-negative. That is not the goal of treatment. The way to think about it is we want to get to MRD-negative, but that means it’s incumbent upon us to try and pick a regimen that is more likely to get to MRD-negative. That’s the way to think about it.

Let’s pick a regimen more likely to get us into MRD-negative and hope that we get to MRD-negative. We see every now and then that the patients keep switching regimens just to get to MRD-negative. That’s not the way to go because you’re just using up options too quickly, too fast. A common question that patients ask is, well, does that mean I need to get annual bone marrow biopsies and MRD testing? Probably not.

That’s too much testing. So what I suggest is that once somebody has turned MRD-negative, it’s important to keep an eye on every single thing. Now, change in any of the routine labs, imaging, new symptoms, etcetera. That’s when we switch to the bone marrow again and see if the patient has turned MRD-positive. There are clinical trials going on right now which are stopping drugs based on repeat MRD negativity or starting drugs on MRD positivity. But those are clinical trial questions.

Lisa Hatfield:

So along those same lines, since you’re a Mayo physician, I’m curious about the mass spec testing. So if a patient say has been MRD-negative for some time, still wants to monitor at a deeper level, even though it’s not commercialized yet, do you see a role for mass spec testing on a regular basis in the future and being rolled out to community facilities also?

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi:

Absolutely, Lisa. I did not specifically bring it up because mass spec is not, like you rightly said, is not yet commercially available. Now we’re doing mass spec quite frequently at Mayo Clinic. Basically mass spec is taking up a blood sample. Important to keep in mind, it’s not a bone marrow test, it’s a blood test, but it looks for those abnormal proteins based on the protein weight at a much, much lower level. Our SPEP or serum protein electrophoresis does not pick up very small quantities of the protein mass spec does. So in an essence, the mass spec, if somebody is negative on that, turning mass spec negative to mass spec positive may be an earlier sign of the disease coming back rather than the SPEP yet turning positive. But as you rightly said, it is not yet commercially available. I do see the benefit of it.

There is more and more data coming in favor of it, and there was data that was also at ASH. So I do see that in the future we’ll be able to most likely have it available more widely. At this point, it is just a blood test to attempt to check the disease level at a much deeper level and be able to notice if the disease is progressing sooner than our currently available tools.


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