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ASCO 2015: Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta

ASCO Founded more than five decades ago, the American Society of Clinical  Oncology ( ASCO ) is the world’s leading professional organization  representing physicians who care for patients with cancer. ASCO is  supported by its affiliate organization, the Conquer Cancer Foundation,  which has been funding some ground-breaking research that continues  to make a tangible difference in the lives of people with cancer.

Chicago was again the host of the ASCO 2015 meeting where research from all over the world was presented to oncologists and health care providers from over 100 nations. One of the topics that was discussed was Multiple Myeloma. This is a tough disease where cure at the present time is not possible, however, treatments for this disease have been extremely encouraging.

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a blood and bone marrow disorder characterized by the malignant proliferation of plasma cells producing a monoclonal immunoglobulin. The plasma cells proliferate in the bone marrow and this often results in extensive skeletal destruction with osteolytic lesions, osteopenia, and/or pathologic fractures. Patients generally present with symptoms of fatigue, back pain, anemia and weakness. X-rays of bones are abnormal and a suspicion of this disease is heightened. Typically, blood tests and then a bone marrow are required to clinch the diagnosis.

Initial treatment for this disease depends on the patient’s age and other accompanying medical co-morbidities. Chemotherapy plus some newer agents have been incorporated in the management of this disease. There is significant and positive response to treatment. Some patients, especially with poor prognosis, often times relapse with this disease requiring advanced treatments.

At this year’s ASCO meeting, a phase II trial suggested that anti-CD38 antibody daratumumab was effective in patients with MM who have been previously treated. Approximately, 26,000 Americans will be diagnosed with MM in 2015.

Daratumumab was utilized as a treatment for patients who were resistant to previous therapy in MM. Daratumumab is a first-in-class antibody targeting CD38, a protein found in high levels on the surface of myeloma cells. This is the largest study to show impressive activity of a monoclonal antibody as a standalone therapy for treatment-resistant multiple myeloma. After a median follow-up of 9.4 months, 29% of patients responded to daratumumab with three patients experiencing complete remission of their disease. Overall survival at one year was 65%.

This is tremendous news for patients with Multiple Myeloma since they now have another weapon in their armamentarium to fight this illness. With ongoing research, this drug will be brought up in the earlier phases of treatment for Multiple Myeloma in the years the to come.

– Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta