Myeloma: a new treatment strategy?
What if we could design T cells that have the ideal metabolic features for survival, function and tumour killing in the bone marrow environment?
What is this research looking at?
Multiple myeloma is a cancer which develops in the bone marrow. Despite some effective new therapies, it remains difficult to treat and five-year survival rates are poor. Novel treatment strategies are therefore critically needed. One possible approach – which has been successful for other cancers – is to use cells of the body’s immune system (called T cells) to kill the cancer.
In order to do this, we must first understand how the special environment of this particular cancer – the bone marrow – impacts T cells.
For example, in multiple myeloma, the bone marrow has altered levels of oxygen, nutrients and metabolic waste products, which may impair T cell metabolism. In recent years we have discovered that optimal immune cell metabolic fitness is crucial to their anti-cancer function.
My research assesses the metabolism of bone marrow T cells from patients across the spectrum of multiple myeloma and compares this to healthy individuals. It also investigates precisely how other components of the bone marrow affect T cell metabolism. Based on these findings, I want to design T cells that have the ideal metabolic fitness to survive in the bone marrow, and importantly kill cancer cells.
Being awarded this fellowship has supported me to establish myself as a researcher. It has provided me with opportunities to interact with other scientists and clinicians working to understand multiple myeloma.
What could this mean for people with leukaemia?
This fundamental research will provide key information to support the development of much-needed novel therapies for multiple myeloma in future.