There have been important strides in multiple myeloma treatment in recent years including a striking series of new immune agents approved and progress in understanding the complex underlying disease biology. These gains are welcome achievements for the entire myeloma community – patients, families, healthcare providers, and researchers from industry and academia. Yet there is much more to do. Despite these and other advances, there is no cure for myeloma and most patients die of their disease. Some patients get very little benefit from this progress and long-term survivorship often involves protracted treatment and varied toxicities, including financial trauma.
The way forward requires even more collaboration. New forms of teamwork offer the possibility of new findings far beyond what individual groups could achieve alone. As in many endeavors, collaboration can still be elusive, particularly when there is little incentive to band together and a tendency to “go it alone” even in lethal diseases like myeloma. This is why intervention by, and funding from, organizations like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is so critical. For the last twenty-five years, the MMRF has facilitated collaborative efforts to drive ambitious clinical studies that could not be done by any single institution. We have directed attention and dollars to find new insights about how myeloma starts as well as how it evolves to resist therapy.
With 2024 nearly upon us, the MMRF is again investing in new research challenges and new approaches to team building and collaboration. We recently announced that our MMRF Myeloma Accelerator Challenge (MAC) Program will invest $21 million over three years to focus on the biology of high-risk newly diagnosed multiple myeloma and the definition of high-risk smoldering precursor disease. This is a global research program comprised of three multi-institution partnerships across 18 different medical centers in the US, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Germany:
Worldwide, the annual incidence of myeloma is currently 160,000 and the mortality rate is 106,000. We are excited about the results that will emerge from these MAC Program projects and the promise to change these numbers. Personally, I am pleased that these centers and the MMRF can work together to pool resources in a less common but lethal cancer, and study hundreds of patient samples from high-risk subsets of the disease. This approach will create new possibilities and advance compelling hypotheses on the path to rapid testing in clinical trials. This can result in better clinical strategies and more effective treatments, a critical step in the MMRF’s urgent pursuit of a cure for each and every myeloma patient.
Clearly there is more to do but there is no doubt we will be successful faster when we do this together.