Cancer Researchers and Physicians to Offer Clinical Trial with Multiple Myeloma Patients

Posted: August 7, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Patty Snellings

Cancer researchers at Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM) are studying the effects of experimental treatments on living tumor cells taken from multiple myeloma patients undergoing a bone marrow biopsy.

CAPMM co-directors Lance Liotta and Emanuel Petricoin III are partnering with physicians at Fairfax-Northern Virginia Hematology Oncology to examine protein signal pathway activity in diseased cells and determine what type of drug intervention is needed to prevent further growth of the disease, an incurable form of blood cancer.

“This is not a patient treatment trial,” explains Liotta. “Instead, living cells from a biopsy are treated in culture immediately after being removed from the patient.” The material will be taken to CAPMM laboratories for analysis.

“Our data indicate that the protein signaling pathways that control cellular activity are different in each patient’s tumor,” Liotta says. “This novel trial will test a large series of targeted inhibitors, alone and in unique combinations, that block key signaling pathways in the tumor cells. This is a key first step toward true individualized therapy for multiple myeloma.”

Currently, treatment of multiple myeloma is based on a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to consider the protein signaling information, Petricoin adds.

“Since this information underpins the growth and survival of the cancer cells, we hypothesize that turning patient-specific signaling activation off will kill the tumor cells more effectively than the current treatment. In this initial study, we will test promising new treatments that may be candidates for clinical treatment research trials.”

The research is funded by local philanthropist Chris Walker.

“This is an example of serendipity and opportunity, and that is what makes America a special place — where good people and good ideas garner support from pluralistic sources,” Walker says. “Cancer, in particular, needs some new ideas since the old approaches aren’t working.”

Multiple myeloma is a treatable progressive disease that attacks the plasma cell, a vital part of the immune system that produces antibodies to fight infection and disease. One of the leading causes of cancer death among African Americans, multiple myeloma is the second most prevalent blood cancer in the United States. It is expected to strike nearly 20,000 men and women this year, although it is more frequently seen in men than women.

Patients interested in participating in this multiple myeloma trial must be referred by their physicians for an eligibility screening. For additional information, contact Denise Campbell, Fairfax-Northern Virginia Hematology Oncology, at 703-280-5390.

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