Garvan Institute of Medical Research & The University of Sydney
Two researchers are making inroads into multiple myeloma treatment. Professor Peter Croucher and his teams are advancing our knowledge about what makes dormant myeloma cells awaken in bone marrow causing a relapse. His research has also shown treatment for osteoporosis can help people with myeloma. Dr Kenneth Micklethwaite’s team is investigating how their breakthrough immunotherapy treatment for leukaemia and lymphoma could be used to treat myeloma.
Each year about 1,200 Australians are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that develops in bone marrow. In most patients it damages the bones, causing weakness and repeated fractures. Even though treatments are available to manage the disease, multiple myeloma is currently incurable and survival prognosis is poor. Myeloma cells can lie dormant in the skeleton and make a comeback at any time, growing another tumour. Once a patient has suffered bone loss, there are no medicines available to rebuild the bone tissue, leaving them with permanently damaged bones.
The research teams are working to improve treatment options for multiple myeloma, including efforts to find medication that can rebuild lost bone tissue for affected patients.
Professor Croucher and his team have made a major discovery about what causes dormant myeloma cells to re-awaken in the bone marrow. Their work could lead to better use of existing osteoporosis drugs, keeping the cancer cells ‘asleep’.
The team has also discovered that a new medication called anti-sclerostin, which is being developed for osteoporosis treatment, can also be used in myeloma patients with bone problems.
Dr Micklethwaite and his team have discovered a way to genetically modify immune cells so they can target and kill cancer cells.
Their work is already en route to helping leukaemia and lymphoma patients, and the team is now looking for ways to target multiple myeloma with this new technology.
These avenues of research have the potential to lead to vast benefits for people with multiple myeloma, both in managing the symptoms of the disease and in halting tumour progress. Since myeloma is currently incurable, finding a way to specifically target tumour cells using immunotherapy could potentially transform treatment options for this cancer. Also, quality of life can potentially be improved by addressing the bone destruction that multiple myeloma causes. Effective delivery of medication that can prevent this from happening and can help rebuild the lost bone tissue would have significant benefits to patients.
Professor Peter Croucher
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Dr Kenneth Micklethwaite
The University of Sydney
Dr Julian Quinn
Dr Tri Phan
Associate Professor Simon Harrison
Dr Tri Phan
Dr Michelle McDonald
Professor Phoebe Joy Ho
Dr Paul Baldock