Multiple myeloma causes monoclonal globulin accumulations in marrow that destroy the structural integrity of bones and marrow function, contributing to kidney failure. A recent proliferation of immunomodulatory and other anti-myeloma agents is improving patient survival times and quality of life, but multiple myeloma remains largely incurable.

Myeloma possesses diverse molecular mechanisms to escape or disable patients’ immune cells, effecting “immune paralysis.”

Numerous investigational strategies are, however, under development for overcoming immune evasion, including candidate myeloma vaccines.

According to Irene M. Hutchins, MD, of the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, vaccines are a particularly promising approach for multiple myeloma therapy because the disease’s survival depends on immune dysregulation.

“Anticancer vaccines are designed to activate the body’s immune response against cancer cells, similarly to how vaccines are used to promote immune defenses against infections,” Dr Hutchins told Cancer Therapy Advisor. “Vaccine therapy may be useful in maintaining remission and prolonging survival in multiple myeloma, particularly in combination with other immune therapies.”

Whereas malignancies rapidly evolve resistance to signaling-pathway mutation-targeting therapies, cell-surface antigens, which are immune system targets, tend to remain stable over time in multiple myeloma.1

Several promising types of vaccine are now under investigation as possible treatments for multiple myeloma.

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Identification of myeloma-associated — and ideally, myeloma-specific — antigens for immune system recognition is, however, critical for the success of this treatment approach.2