Through its participation in clinical trials, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers is part of research that over the past decade has brought unprecedented advancements in treatment of blood cancers, and continues to produce groundbreaking new therapies.
In the past decade, eight new therapies have been approved for the treatment of just one blood cancer, multiple myeloma, says Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist John Burke, MD. Now, researchers are building on that progress to offer new treatments for other diseases of the blood, including leukemias and lymphomas, he says.
“It’s exciting to be seeing such great progress for patients and so many improved outcomes,” Dr. Burke says.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers continues its longstanding commitment to the development of new treatments through its participation in clinical trials.
Currently, much research in new blood cancer treatments is focused on five broad categories of emerging therapies:
- Monoclonal Antibodies: Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that bind to targets on cancer cells to induce death of the cancer cells by various mechanisms. They can also bind to targets that affect the immune system (see Immune Stimulating Treatments, below)
- Antibody-drug conjugates: Antibody-drug conjugates consist of monoclonal antibodies linked to drugs. The antibody targets a protein on the cancer cell and delivers a drug inside the cell to help kill it. The idea is to guide drugs directly to the cancer cell as opposed to exposing all cells, including normal ones, to the drugs.
- Immune stimulating treatments: These therapies, known as immunotherapies, stimulate the body’s immune system to try to attack the cancer cells more than it normally does.
- Antiangiogenic agents: Drugs that block the formation of new blood cells that supply the oxygen and nutrients tumors use to grow.
- Tyrosine kinase inhibitors: Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are small molecules that bind to and inhibit enzymes that promote growth and development of cancer cells. One example of a tyrosine kinase inhibitor is ibrutinib, which inhibits a protein call Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK). BTK is a protein involved in signaling production and activity of B cells, which are a type of white blood cell. When BTK malfunctions, it is active in creating blood cancers. BTK inhibitors are drugs that block the protein’s activity.
Hematologists at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers currently are participating in several clinical trials of drugs that use these cancer-fighting mechanisms. Clinical trials test the effectiveness and safety of new therapies that may offer promise in the treatment of cancer.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers is currently participating in clinical trials evaluating immunotherapies for treatment of lymphomas, antibody drug conjugates for treatment of lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, monoclonal antibodies for treatment of multiple myeloma, and a Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitor for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Dr. Burke says these drugs represent the continuing breakthroughs in blood-cancer treatment. “We’re still not perfect and we don’t cure everybody like we want to,” Burke says. But he’s confident that researchers, with contributions from thousands of patients and their oncologists, are on the right path.
“Ten years from now, there will be a new approach we’re not even thinking about now,” he says.