Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer, affecting 2,900 Canadians annually. The disease attacks plasma cells, a type of blood cell formed in the bone marrow that produces antibodies and fights infections. As the disease develops, the abnormal plasma cells multiply and can prevent other blood cells from functioning normally. There is no cure for multiple myeloma, but it is treatable. However, the current treatment method using stem cell transplants can have adverse side effects, such as graft-versus-host disease and relapse.
Dr. Jean Roy at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont is pursuing better ways to make stem cell transplants for high-risk myeloma patients safer and more effective through his SCN-funded clinical trial. The protocol uses a small molecule, UM171, discovered at the Université de Montréal and licensed by the Montréal-based company ExCellThera, which can increase the number of stem and immune cells in cord blood, thus resulting in better transplant outcomes.
A key part of early phase clinical trials is determining the safety of a new treatment, but also identifying the best protocol for delivery to patients. In the case of this trial, it was determined very early that a change was needed in the preconditioning regimen (the preparation a patient needs to go through before a stem cell transplant can be performed) to ensure the new cells could engraft properly and manage the disease. This was critical information that enabled successful transplants to subsequent patients.
“We’re really encouraged by the preliminary findings of this SCN-funded trial; the patients had no immune complications and tolerated the transplant well. We are optimistic about the promising results and future outcomes for these patients.”
This clinical trial resulted in important insights with a more effective treatment protocol, and shortened hospital stays compared to the use of regular cord blood transplants. The team will continue to monitor the patients and open the clinical trial to additional multiple myeloma patients, regardless of their risk stage.