Many myeloma patients have asked this question to themselves and to their physicians prior to their SCT. We now have an answer to this difficult question and it comes as the result of a very encompassing effort by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). Researchers from both US and EU treatment sites pooled very detailed genetics markers from a pool of 635 patients and studied correlations between markers, treatment programs and treatment outcomes. This study was presented at ASH 2017 (‘Multiple Myeloma Drivers of High Risk and Response to Stem Cell Transplantation Identified by Causal Machine Learning: Out-of-Cohort and Experimental Validation.’ I will skip the details of the analysis the authors have done and go right to the bottom line. The research has identified one genetic marker, CHEK1, that is associated with beneficial outcomes of stem cell transplants depending on the magnitude of its presence. Low value presence of CHEK1 (< 9.6) is associated with better outcomes of STC as measured by progress free survival, compared to patients with CHEK1-high values (>9.6). The link provided above will show you two sets of curves (figure 4 in the article) that show the differences in outcomes for patients with these two different CHEK1 values compared to patients without a SCT. For those who would like to learn more you, you can click the link above or to a press release of the company, GNS Healthcare, that developed the software platform that was used. The link to the poster presentation at ASH makes for a very interesting read that goes beyond the identification of CHECK1 but presents several other targets for drug development that may help to stem the progress of our disease in the future. In the weeks to come you will learn more about the debut of Myeloma Crowd's HealthTree. Our goal is to work with fellow patients and learn more about the relationship between how our disease is defined by testing, treatment programs and treatment outcomes. Many researchers and/or drug developers are already targeting a variety of factors. Our hope, with HealthTree, is to identify additional targets to help researchers develop additional ways to control, slow down and, hopefully, cure a disease that has been labeled as ‘uncurable’ for such a long period of time.
about the author
I am a patient diagnosed in 2014 with primary plasma cell leukemia (pPCL), a rare and aggressive variant of multiple myeloma and have been very fortunate to find successful treatment at the division of Cellular Therapy at the Duke University Cancer Institute. My wife, Vicki, and I have two adult children and two grandsons who are the ‘lights of our lives’. Successful treatment has allowed Vicki and I to do what we love best : traveling the world, albeit it with some extra precautions to keep infections away. My career in the pharmaceutical industry has given me insights that I am currently putting to use as an advocate to lower drug pricing, especially prices for anti-cancer drugs. I am a firm believer that staying mentally active, physically fit, compliant to our treatment regimen and taking an active interest in our disease are keys to successful treatment outcomes.