Researchers are starting a ground-breaking clinical trial that will use a patient’s own tumor and immune cells to fight the reoccurrence of a type of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma.
The trial will be led by the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and conducted by 14 other different cancer research centers. It will be the first large-scale trial of a personalized vaccine to fight tumors.
Multiple myeloma is treatable, but it has no cure. Over time, the cancer returns and even the best state-of-the-art treatments can’t stop it. Researchers are considering a different approach that allows the body to fight the battle directly.
“We’re trying to train the immune system to be constantly surveying to identify and wipe out the re-emerging cancer cells,’’ Dr. Natalie Callander, associate professor of medicine and head of the trial at UW Carbone, said in a statement.
The team plans to collect the cancer cells from patients and freeze them. The patient will then go through chemotherapy to reduce the cancer. The researchers will fuse the cancer cells with the patient's own blood cells, with the expectation that this generates an immune response.
They hope the patients’ own antibodies will react and fight off the cancer cells, remaining ready to fight the tumor as quickly as it appears. In the trial, 50 percent of the patients will be given the new treatment, while the remaining 50 will receive a standard maintenance drug used for this condition.
“This trial is taking personalized medicine to the next level, by making a vaccine from the patient’s own tumors,’’ added Dr. Callander.
Multiple myeloma targets plasma cells, one of several types of white blood cells that are part of the human immune system. The cancerous plasma cells invade the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells, which can lead to several conditions including kidney problems.