IU School of Medicine recruited leading researchers and is studying how a patient’s personal factors and environment play a role in the disease.
IU’S PRECISION HEALTH INITIATIVE has designated multiple myeloma as one of the diseases IU will seek to cure with this highly personalized approach to medicine. Funding from the IU “Grand Challenges” supports a program that tackles myeloma from all sides.
The research program has been strengthened through the recent recruitment of two top multiple myeloma researchers.
Fabiana Perna, MD, PhD, came to IU in October from Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, where she was a senior scientist. At IU, Perna will lead an immunotherapy research team looking for new targets on myeloma cells.
Brian Walker, PhD, who arrived in November from the University of Arkansas, is looking at how myeloma develops and which patients are at a higher risk for early relapses after initial treatment. This information will help clinicians determine which patients need the closest monitoring and improved therapy.
Other aspects of the multiple myeloma research program at IU School of Medicine include:
• A multiple myeloma biobank that houses samples of blood and other biospecimens from 1,000 patients. The goal is that every myeloma patient in Indiana is entered into a database, so scientists understand why myeloma occurs in those patients and how to treat them in a precise way.
• A clinical trial to determine whether oncologists can stop the development of myeloma in people without symptoms, but who have proteins in their blood that are very early indicators of myeloma.
• A 5-year study of myeloma patients that seeks to gauge how personal factors—medical history, genomic markers, race, ethnicity and environmental exposures—may affect a patient’s response to treatment.
• An assessment of whether connections exist between environmental contaminants and multiple myeloma. IU’s physician-researchers have noticed certain Indiana counties have more myeloma cases than others. Partnering with an epidemiologist, the research team is trying to map myeloma incidences across the state. The hope is to possibly develop a location-based myeloma screening program.