A clinical trial is a research study designed to evaluate a promising new medical treatment. It may involve a new way of preventing, diagnosing and/or treating cancer. Up to half of all Roswell Park patients are eligible to enroll in a clinical trial. Clinical trials may focus on:
- New ways of preventing cancer with drugs, diet and/or exercise
- New ways to better diagnose cancer
- New drugs to treat cancer
- New ways to use existing treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy
- New ways to improve quality of life for patients with cancer
When the information gained from a clinical trial shows that the treatment being studied is more effective than standard treatments, the new treatment eventually becomes the new standard of care. Every treatment that is now FDA-approved began as a treatment being studied in a clinical trial.
What’s new in multiple myeloma treatment?
Treatments targeting BCMA
Some promising new treatments are zeroing in on the B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) that is found on the surface of multiple myeloma cells. These treatments are offered through clinical trials and an expanded access program at Roswell Park.
The first involves an antibody-drug conjugate, which combines a cancer-killing drug with a monoclonal antibody. The antibody homes in on BCMA, delivering the drug directly to myeloma cells without harming normal cells.
The second treatment, CAR T-cell therapy, is a type of immunotherapy that can re-train the immune system to find and kill cancer cells. In this treatment, your immune system’s healthy cancer-killing T cells are collected through apheresis, a procedure that’s very much like donating blood. The cells are re-engineered in a laboratory, where they are “taught” to attack the BCMA on the surface of the myeloma cells. Then they are multiplied until there are millions of them and returned to your body through an intravenous (IV) infusion.
A therapeutic cancer vaccine
SurVaxM, a therapeutic cancer vaccine, is currently being evaluated in a phase I clinical trial as a treatment for patients newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The vaccine was developed at Roswell Park by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD.
Promoting better health through exercise
Until recently, most multiple myeloma patients with bone destruction were advised by their doctors not to exercise, because they might develop bone fractures. However, we have observed that patients often ignore that advice and exercise anyway — and surprisingly, exercise rarely seems to lead to significant complications.
On the other hand, inactivity can cause multiple problems. Along with the pain and fatigue caused by the disease, it can make it harder for patients to move about — and that can lead to additional health problems, including loss of bone mass, loss of muscle mass, increased risk of infections and potentially life-threatening blood clots. Inactivity also increases the risk of falls and has a negative impact on the patient’s social life and physical and psychological well-being.
To evaluate the potential risks and benefits of physical exercise on multiple myeloma patients, Roswell Park has launched a clinical trial in which participants exercise under the guidance of a physical therapist and a personal trainer, both of whom specialize in treating patients with bone defects.