U.S. government researchers using a personalized therapy made from genetically engineered T cells induced remissions in some patients with highly advanced multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer affecting plasma cells.
The encouraging results, while coming from a small trial not yet completed, lend support to a partnership between Celgene (CELG) and Bluebird Bio (BLUE) to begin testing their own version of this engineered T cell therapy in multiple myeloma patients starting next year.
In this study, presented by Dr. James Kochenderfer of the National Cancer Institute, researchers extracted immune T cells from patients, and in a lab, genetically engineered them to recognize a protein known as B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA). The BCMA protein is found on malignant and healthy plasma cells. Once injected back into the patient, the altered T cells seek out and kill BCMA-containing cells.
Engineered T cell therapies, also known as chimeric antigen receptor therapies (CAR-T), have already demonstrated high remission rates when the target is a protein known as CD19 found on leukemia and lymphoma cells. This NIH study, however, is the first time that positive responses have been seen from a CAR-T directed at the BCMA protein.
Twelve patients with heavily pre-treated multiple myeloma were enrolled in the study. Four escalating doses of the so-called CAR-BCMA therapy were infused into the patients. The overall response rate among the 12 patients was 33%.
Of the two patients receiving the highest dose, one patient achieved a complete remission at two months after infusion with the CAR-BCMA therapy. Multiple myeloma that made up 90% of this patient's bone marrow cells was eliminated by the CAR-BCMA therapy. The patient remains in complete remission 14 weeks after receiving the T cell therapy.