In what could open the door to a potential cure for multiple myeloma, Swedish scientists have discovered that a single antibody — a protein used by the immune system to fight infection and disease — could be the key to treating the cancer of the blood, which now has no effective long-term treatment.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden tested thousands of antibodies to identify one in particular — known as BI-505 — that they said was shown to have “a powerful effect on the tumor cells in both cell studies and animal experiments.” Preliminary tests of BI-505 on seriously ill patients also found it to be safe, and another study of its treatment effects on newly diagnosed individuals has just begun.
“We tested the antibody in various ways, including on tumor cells from myeloma patients that have been transplanted into mice,” said Lund researcher Markus Hansson. “The tests showed that the antibody is able to destroy myeloma cells.”
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Myeloma develops when cells in the bone marrow become cancerous, disrupting blood formation and resulting in fatigue, weakened bones, and life-threatening kidney failure. Several drugs are currently used to treat multiple myeloma, but none eradicate the disease. There is no cure. Fewer than half of all patients diagnosed with the condition live longer than five years.
Drugs based on antibodies, which are a part of the immune system and fight off foreign bodies, are a promising new line of medical research and are now used to treat some inflammatory diseases and types of cancer.
The new Lund study will involve 15 patients and is expected to be completed this year. If the results are promising, Hansson and his colleagues will test BI-505 in larger studies designed to uncover the best way of using the new antibody — alone or in combination with other drugs.
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