New cancer drug that could help people with multiple myeloma

13th April 2020

Dr Colin Thomson founded Worldwide Cancer Research over 40 years ago with one goal - to cure cancer in his lifetime. Tragically he died of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, before he could fulfil his ambition.

At the time Colin was diagnosed, only 1 in 20 people with multiple myeloma would survive their diagnosis for 10 years or longer. Thanks to 40 years of bold new research, approximately 6 in 20 people will now survive for 10 years or longer. But there is still a lot more to do.

That’s why we fund researchers around the world who are working hard to conquer cancer - like Dr Tuna Mutis, who has been studying a new drug that could help overcome treatment resistance in advanced cases of multiple myeloma.

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects special cells in the bone marrow that produce antibodies - small molecules that help our immune system fight infections in the body. Whilst survival rates have been improving, multiple myeloma is not considered a curable cancer and almost all patients eventually see their cancer return and develop resistance to treatments.

Bold new research

Dr Tuna Mutis and his team at the VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands have been studying this new drug – called FL118 - that has already shown promise in colon and head and neck cancers. Recent results from Dr Mutis’ lab show that the new drug could help overcome treatment resistance in advanced cases of multiple myeloma.

Cancer cells can become resistant to treatment by recruiting surrounding healthy cells to support them. The researchers found that not only is FL118 effective at killing multiple myeloma cells when they are surrounded by these support cells, but it was also able to reverse treatment resistance. These are important findings, as they suggest that the new drug could have the potential to treat patients that are no longer responding to standard therapies.

Exciting new results

FL118 also enhanced the effect of two drugs that are commonly used to treat multiple myeloma. When tested in a mouse model of multiple myeloma, FL118 was able to shrink the tumour to almost a sixth of its original size and to delay tumour growth for up to 5 weeks.

These exciting results suggest that FL118 could be useful when combined with currently available drugs to overcome treatment resistance. The drug has the potential to be highly effective in treatment resistant patients – a group that urgently needs new therapeutic options.

What’s next?

Before any new drug can be approved for regular use, it needs to be tested in patients. Dr Tuna Mutis explains the next steps: “The first step towards using this compound in the clinic is to do a phase one clinical trial, which judges the safety of the drug. Our collaborators, who also provided this compound, are now planning this trial. In addition to this, we are also testing whether this new drug could improve immune therapy. This would be another important effect, which could demonstrate its usefulness in a wide variety of cancers – not just multiple myeloma.”

Research like this is essential to start new cures for cancer. By finding and funding scientists like Dr Tuna Mutis, we can drive forward our quest to conquer cancer and stop suffering. But to continue funding more bold new research, we need your help. Find out more about how you can support us and save lives.