November 24, 2009

The Changing Nature of Multiple Myeloma Research

Over the last few weeks, I have been privileged to participate in several scientific conferences on the subject of cancer research. The first of these meetings was held by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Virginia, the second was an international meeting in Boston on Pharmaceutical Oncology R&D and most recently another meeting was held in the same locale that is known as the Molecular Targets meeting sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), NCI and the European Oncology Research and Treatment Organization (EORTC). As a field, the nature of research is changing to embrace more applied, so-called translational, research. The NCI is taking a leadership position to push this transition along. Discoveries are being made at the bench and translated to the patient's bedside (and back again) at an ever increasing pace and laying the groundwork for personalized medicine in the future. What was most exciting at these meetings was hearing from international leaders and researchers that the MMRF and MMRC are widely recognized as leaders promoting continued advancements in myeloma research and drug development. Because of the tremendous collaborations that have been established involving researchers around the world, the stage is set for the next generation of treatments and for the coming wave of matching patients with drugs through personalized medical approaches.

From a scientific perspective, one of the most exciting discoveries described at the Molecular Targets meeting was around a gene called IDH1 which appears to be mutated in some types of cancers and is correspondingly subverted to a different purpose in tumor cells. These observations suggest that there is an entirely new collection of targets for drug intervention that could result in drugs specifically targeting the tumor and sparing the patient's normal cells and thereby exerting fewer side-effects than traditional chemotherapeutic approaches. Because of the work that the MMRF has already undertaken through the establishment of the MMRC Tissue Bank and through our successful sequencing of the myeloma tumor genome in many multiple myeloma patients' samples, multiple myeloma patients as a group stand to be among the first to benefit from these findings in the very near future.

-Louise M Perkins, PhD
 Chief Scientific Officer