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Chinese Scientists Find Possible Cell Therapy For Multiple Myeloma

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Chinese scientists presented a possible cell therapy for multiple myeloma at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held in Chicago on Monday.

Data collected by Chinese scientists in an early clinical trial show that the therapy, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy, could be a safe and effective way to treat relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma.

Multiple Myeloma

The ongoing early-phase clinical trial of the therapy conducted at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University in Xi’an, China, shows that 33 out of 35 patients who have their multiple myeloma relapsed on previous treatments reported clinical remission within two months after receiving experimental CAR T-cell products targeting B-cell maturation protein (BCMA).

The first 35 patients enrolled in the ongoing clinical trial have received three split doses of 20 percent, 30 percent and 50 percent, respectively, over a week, and the first signs of treatment efficacy appeared as early as 10 days after the initial injection.

During clinical trial, Chinese researchers have followed 19 patients for more than four months, a consensus criteria time for full efficacy assessment set by the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG), and found that 14 reached stringent complete response (sCR) criteria, which means there is no detectable plasma cells in the patient’s bone marrow or myeloma proteins in the serum or urine; one reached partial response; and four achieved very good partial remission criteria (VgPR) in efficacy.

There has not been a single case of relapse among the 14 patients who reached sCR criteria, and of the five out of the 14 patients that have been followed for over a year, all remain at sCR status.

Clinical trial also found that cytokine release syndrome (CRS), a common and potentially dangerous side effect of ACR T-cell, occurred in 85 percent of patients receiving the therapy, though the symptoms were mild and manageable in majority of the cases.

Michael S. Sabel, fellow of the America College of Surgeons, called the trial of the therapy and the science behind it “revolutionary”. “I think this really opens up the door for using the sort of precision immunotherapy to expand the potential of immunotherapy to a wider net of patients,” Sabel said.

Wanhong Zhao, a main organizer of the current study on CAR T-cell and associate director of hematology at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University, compared the cancer to a ball, saying the therapy in the past was to use one hand to catch the ball, which is prone to fail.

“The new therapy enables us to use two hands to grasp the ball,” which can hold the ball tight and then kill it, Zhao said.

Frank Fan, chief scientific officer and founder of Legend Biotech, told Xinhua that this new therapy his company developed in the past three years is a unique one in the world, and Legend Biotech claims full intellectual property right over it.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells from bone marrow. It is not really responding to standard chemotherapies. Nearly 86,000 patients are diagnosed with myeloma each year, and the number may continue to increase as the world population is aging. The disease usually occurs above 60 years old and is more common in men than women.

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