myeloma bone marrow aspirate

The 2nd Oxford Myeloma Workshop was a two-day event (1-2 August 2019) run by Oxford University Hospitals which focused on the current translational research priorities in myeloma. Patient Advocacy and Policy Research Officer, Dr Amy Capper was there to learn about the latest developments. Here are some of her highlights from the programme:

Opening the meeting and setting the scene were Professor Gordon Cook from the University of Leeds and Dr Antonio Palumbo from Takeda who took two sides of the same argument: investigator vs. industry in a debate about translational research in myeloma. Discussing the topics of host response and tumour biomarkers, the application of MRD, frailty assessments, real-world evidence and immunotherapy, they recognised that through good collaboration each side could bring complementary strengths. They highlighted that industry due to their stability and clear organisational goals often tends to have better skills in medicinal chemistry and assay development, whilst, academia is better at aligning the needs and values of society, developing innovation and having disease expertise. They agreed that in order to influence regulators and drive change in the field, academia and industry need to work together to define universal rules and criteria for new methodologies and have more of a focus towards application and use in the real world, not just proof of principle.

Professor Kwee Yong from University College London discussed immune dysfunction in myeloma: fact or fiction. She described how the host immune response likely plays a role in disease progression and control and how current therapeutic strategies work in part by restoring or augmenting immune function. Her research showed that contrary to the traditional view that CD8 cells are central to tumour control that CD4 dependent immune responses may predominate in myeloma. Optimal clinical responses, therefore, may only be achieved by incorporating strategies to combat suppressive mechanisms.

Another stand-out topic of discussion was the genomics of evolution in myeloma and how genetic studies could be used to better risk-stratify patients and dissect mechanisms of resistance. Sarah Gooding from the University of Oxford discussed the use of single-cell analysis and the challenge of translating single-cell genomics into future immunotherapies when genetic sub-clones are transcriptionally distinct.

The workshop concluded with a summary of the key challenges in myeloma translational research from Professor Gareth Morgan from NYU Langone Health in New York.

He highlighted that “grouping patients together using genetics, frailty and symptoms to personalise therapy is currently a key challenge” and that better treatment strategies are needed to meet the need of high-risk myeloma patients and to overcome issues like drug resistance and clonal evolution.

It was clear from the discussions that it is the responsibility of both academia and industry to work together with patient organisations like Myeloma UK and address these challenges to bring about change in translational research that will benefit the myeloma patient journey.