RPH Research Foundation is proud to support Dr Hun Chuah and his team with their project ‘Improving outcomes for patients with multiple Myeloma’ with our 2022 Springboard Plus Grant.
Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma (MM), is a blood cancer of plasma cells found in bone marrow. It is often called multiple myeloma as it can affect multiple areas throughout a patient’s body at the same time.
There are more than 20,000 Australians living with myeloma, making it the second most common type of blood cancer. While there have been significant advancements in treatment, myeloma remains incurable. Although most patients respond to treatment initially, they eventually develop drug resistance and succumb to the disease. With over 2,500 patients diagnosed with MM each year in Australia and a high mortality rate, it is crucial to conduct research to improve patient outcomes.
A patient’s prognosis with multiple myeloma can range from months to 10 years. One of the strongest predictors of treatment response and outcome for patients is based on the makeup of their plasma cells.
The prognosis for patients with multiple myeloma can range from months to 10 years. One of the most important factors in determining treatment response and outcome is the composition of the patient's plasma cells.
In myeloma, specific genetic abnormalities have a significant impact on patient prognosis. Cytogenetic abnormalities identified during diagnosis and relapse greatly influence outcomes. Patients with high-risk abnormalities, such as deletion 17p (del(17p)), have an average overall survival of five years, compared to standard-risk patients with an average overall survival of over eight years.
Another key prognostic factor in myeloma is the presence of circulating plasma cells, also known as circulating tumour plasma cells (CTPCs). The number of plasma cells in the blood, detected through cytology and flow cytometry, can provide valuable information about tumour growth and predict patient outcomes. However, further studies are needed to understand the genetic makeup of CTPCs in myeloma and how it relates to specific chromosomal abnormalities, including del(17p).
Another important prognostic factor in myeloma is the presence of circulating plasma cells, also known as circulating tumour plasma cells (CTPCs). The number of plasma cells in the blood, detected through cytology and flow cytometry, can provide valuable insights into the proliferative activity of the tumour and predict the outcome for patients. However, further studies are needed to understand the genomic makeup of CTPCs in myeloma and how it correlates with specific chromosomal abnormalities, including del(17p).
Dr Chuah and his team at the Haematology Centre at RPH have developed new technology in Western Australia known as Immuno-flowFISH. This technology is used to identify chromosomal defects in cells and has the potential to revolutionise testing for genomic changes in blood cancers. The RPH Research Foundation Springboard Plus grant will be used to fund the first study to determine if this new technology can detect del(17p).
The main goal of this project is to apply this pioneering cytogenomic technology to identify del(17p), which is the most clinically significant chromosomal abnormality, in the blood of patients with plasma cell neoplasms. This technology could help identify CTPCs in blood samples and detect the critical del(17p) abnormality. It would provide genetic information that predicts patient prognosis without the need for painful and invasive bone marrow tests.
Through their research project, the team is working to refine this technology to improve prognostic information and monitor a patient’s response to treatment. This would help haematologists have an early indicator of drug resistance and cancer recurrence to help improve patient outcomes.