Protein discovery paves way for new multiple myeloma treatments

Posted 14 Oct 2020

Multiple myeloma patients with the poorest prognosis are set to benefit from promising new research at Flinders University which seeks to find new treatments by targeting a protein on the surface of the cancer cells in the bone marrow.

Together with co-investigators Professors Claudine Bonder and Stuart Pitson from UniSA, Dr Wallington-Beddoe, who is also Head of Myeloma and Amyloidosis Services and Director of Haematology Clinical Trials at Flinders Medical Centre, recently discovered the presence of the DSG2 protein biomarker in some multiple myeloma patients.

He’s since found that about 20-30 per cent of newly diagnosed patients express the protein, with this group three times more likely to die within six years of diagnosis.

Dr Wallington-Beddoe and his co-investigators have been awarded a $130,000 research grant co-funded by Flinders Foundation and The Hospital Research Foundation to quickly identify newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients who express the DSG2 protein, so they can be given the most appropriate, currently available therapies right away, whilst also searching for new treatments.

This support was made possible thanks to your generous donations to Flinders Foundation’s Multiple Myeloma appeal and from fundraisers in the community. Thank you.

Armed with this knowledge, Dr Wallington-Beddoe said the focus was now firmly on improving the prognosis for these high-risk patients by developing an antibody therapy to help manipulate the immune system to attack the cancer cells that express the protein.

“Multiple myeloma is a really hard cancer to treat at the best of times, even today it’s deemed incurable,” – Dr Wallington-Beddoe

“So, knowing about this protein and eventually having novel therapies to target it – it’s going to be a completely new playing field.”

Dr Wallington-Beddoe hopes early stage clinical trials on new therapies targeting this protein could be a reality at Flinders within five years.

“This is a big step in the right direction as the protein opens up a whole new therapeutic approach to patient specific medicine,” he says.

“And it’s such an area of need to have better therapies to treat myeloma patients that not only kill the cancer cells effectively but also minimise harmful side effects of the therapies themselves.

“My patients often ask me when we’re going to cure multiple myeloma. We’re certainly not there yet, but the approaches we are using are improving the outcomes of patients year by year.

“There’s immense hope that we can push it back more and more so that while we might not necessarily ‘beat’ it right way, we’ll push it back enough so that people can live longer and more productive lives ‘with’ it.”

You can support multiple myeloma research at Flinders by making a donation by clicking here, or phone the Flinders Foundation team on (08) 8204 5216.

This research has been co-funded by Flinders Foundation and The Hospital Research Foundation


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