The world’s largest society of hematology professionals—American Society of Hematology (ASH)—kicked off its annual meeting today in San Diego. More than 20,000 clinicians, scientists, key players in pharmaceutical industries, government agencies, and nonprofit research foundations were present for the 58th ASH Annual Meeting – the indisputable premier meeting for the presentation of the latest multiple myeloma data.
Several sessions on Saturday highlighted exciting research results for multiple myeloma (MM), including a record-breaking number of talks – 19 – sharing analyses of the MMRF CoMMpass Study, which now has the largest genomics set of any cancer! We are so proud that, with our many partners, we have created such a rich data set that can be accessed by any researcher worldwide.
The CoMMpass Study is a ground-breaking effort by the MMRF to advance precision medicine for patients with myeloma by following more than 1,000 patients from diagnosis and for the next 8 years. This work will allow researchers to (1) analyze the genetic makeup of myeloma in each patient and (2) determine how patients with certain genetic changes respond to some treatments. And, from day 1, we wanted to free the data, meaning that all CoMMpass data goes into the public domain for researchers around the world – not just those involved in the study can access the data and develop new hypotheses to drive precision medicine.
To learn more about the CoMMpass data being presented at ASH, read on and watch for the Fall/Winter 2016 Accelerator, the official magazine of MMRF.
CoMMpass study data driving groundbreaking insights
A Saturday afternoon session focused on genomics, including presentations on how certain genetic mutations can predict a patient’s prognosis – whether he or she will have more or less aggressive disease.
- One group of researchers analyzed data from the CoMMpass Study and reported that patients whose MM genomes had many mutations also had many neoantigens. These are new proteins found on the surface of MM cells. High levels of neoantigens were associated with poor survival, but they may indicate that a patient is an excellent candidate for immune therapies. Immunotherapy can use a patient’s own immune system to identify MM cells with neoantigens and then destroy them. A new class of antibodies called checkpoint inhibitors, including PD-1 and PDL-1 inhibitors which have shown incredible promise in some solid tumors, may benefit these patients. A PDL1-1 inhibitor, atezolizumab, is now enrolling patients to a trial within our clinical network the MMRC.
- Another study analyzing the MMRF CoMMpass Study data identified mutations in 20 different genes that affected prognosis, confirming the existence of at least eight different subtypes of myeloma. An analysis of another data confirmed these findings. Now that these genes and subtypes have been identified, researchers can investigate whether treatments that target those genetic changes help to improve prognosis.
- One analysis presented exciting results that could help doctors and patients in the future assess learn the same information from a patient’s blood sample as they could from a biopsy. Analysis of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is technology is currently being used by obstetricians to analyze fetal DNA for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, and to determine gender.
Making informed treatment decisions with better disease measurement
A second afternoon session focused on measurement of minimal residual disease (MRD), the few disease cells that can remain after a course of myeloma therapy. Methods of MRD measurement are currently under assessment. MRD measurement must first be proven to be reliable before the FDA will approve its broad use. It is hoped that being able to measure MRD can help inform treatment decisions, telling a doctor how long a treatment is effective and when to try a different treatment. The MMRF has several initiatives underway, and a publication will soon be available, to support the widespread adoption of MRD testing.
- Two investigations highlighted the power of MRD to predict outcome, comparing it to the standard analysis of complete response. MRD is able to give a clinician a better understanding of what is happening so that a patient can receive the most appropriate treatment available. Both of these studies should help to support the FDA in evaluating MRD and whether it can be used in the clinical setting in the near future.