SAINT JOHN, NB- The Terry Fox Research Institute is investing $5-million in support of New Brunswick researchers and their colleagues at other cancer centres in Canada to study how new precision medicine tools could improve, and potentially save, the lives of patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
“This $5-million for the Multiple Myeloma Molecular Monitoring (M4) Study will enable this world-class research team to apply cutting-edge tools of precision and personalized medicine to better characterize, monitor and treat the disease over time, with the goal of identifying patients whose treatments should be tailored from the current standard of care for the best outcomes possible,” said Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director.
Dr. Tony Reiman, a medical oncologist and professor at the University of New Brunswick, will lead the team, which comprises researchers and clinicians at multiple sites including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. He hopes the five-year study will result in game-changing new approaches to identifying, treating and monitoring the disease in patients, including those who are at high risk of relapse.
“Currently, patients are all treated and monitored the same way and for patients for whom treatment fails, we need to be able to find new ways of doing things to change that,” says Dr. Reiman. “We’re working with sensitive newer techniques to better understand characteristics of the disease that escape our treatments and persist, even during clinical remission, that are going to eventually cause the patient to have a relapse, so we can find better ways to kill those cancer cells that survive the initial treatment.”
His team in Saint John will organize all the participating centres as well as conduct its own research and receive and bank specimens (blood and marrow) from the 250 myeloma patients that will participate in the project.
M4 study team members will use tests based on advanced techniques like immunoglobulin gene sequencing, multiparameter flow cytometry, PET scans, circulating tumour DNA analysis, and novel drug resistance assays to evaluate the patient specimens and other biosamples. Principal investigators at the partner sites are: Drs. Donna Reece and Suzanne Trudel, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre; Dr. Nizar Bahlis, University of Calgary; and Dr. François Bénard, BC Cancer Agency.
Principal investigators Drs. Reece and Trudel (PM) explain their role in M4 study in the video below.
The research study is significant to Saint John resident and myeloma patient Susan Collins, who is already an active research participant. “Hope is what sustains all myeloma patients. We hope for a better quality of life and survival until the time when doctors tell their patients myeloma is treatable and curable. Research offers hope for a cure and, in a small way, by supporting studies like this one, I feel I am making a contribution to unlocking the doors to a cure,” she remarks.
Patients will be recruited by the study investigators at their own sites.