‘New lease on life’: Bone marrow cancer therapy successful in 73% of patients

It has been described as “bringing your army right to the enemy.” 
Loukia Papadopoulos
A T cell attacking a cancer cell.
A T cell attacking a cancer cell.

luismmolina/iStock 

There’s a promising new therapy that makes the immune system kill bone marrow cancer cells. It has thus far been successful in as many as 73 percent of patients in two clinical trials, according to a report released by researchers from The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The novel therapy, called talquetamab, binds to both T cells and multiple myeloma cells and directs the T cells to exterminate multiple myeloma cells. It has been described as “bringing your army right to the enemy.” 

Talquetamab was tested in phase 1 and phase 2 trials. The study participants had all been previously treated with at least three different therapies without being able to achieve lasting remission.

A new lease on life

“This means that almost three-quarters of these patients are looking at a new lease on life,” said Ajai Chari, MD, Director of Clinical Research in the Multiple Myeloma Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute and lead author of both studies. 

“Talquetamab induced a substantial response among patients with heavily pretreated, relapsed, or refractory multiple myeloma, the second-most-common blood cancer. It is the first bispecific agent targeting the protein GPRC5d in multiple myeloma patients.”

‘New lease on life’: Bone marrow cancer therapy successful in 73% of patients
Cancer cells under a microscope.

Patients with myeloma continually relapse and often have a poor prognosis. As such additional treatments are urgently needed. While still in its early phases, this new trial is an important step in meeting that demand.

The new treatment’s Phase 1 clinical trial enrolled 232 patients while its phase 2 trial included 143 patients treated on a weekly dose and 145 patients treated at a higher biweekly dose. The overall response rate in these two groups was about 73 percent.

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In addition, more than 30 percent of patients in both groups had a complete response (no detection of myeloma-specific markers) or better, and nearly 60 percent had a “very good partial response” or better (indicating the cancer was substantially reduced but not necessarily down to zero).

Research is ongoing

The time it took to notice a response was on average 1.2 months in both dosing groups and the median duration of response to date is 9.3 months with weekly dosing.

Research on the treatment is ongoing with scientists continuing to collect data on the duration of response in the group receiving 0.8 mg/kg every other week and for patients in both dosing groups who had a complete response or better.

Although side effects from the treatment were frequent, they were also mild. About three-quarters of patients experienced cytokine release syndrome, while about 60 percent experienced skin-related side effects. Only 5 to 6 percent of participants had to stop talquetamab because of side effects.

Now, talquetamab offers hope that it could give patients whose myeloma has stopped responding to most available therapies another option to extend their life and benefit from other new and future therapies as they are arise.