Irish patients first to trial new blood cancer drug for chemotherapy

27 Feb 2017

Patient receiving chemotherapy. Image: Chaikom/Shutterstock

Researchers from NUI Galway are the first in the world to lead a clinical trial of a new blood cancer drug that could greatly improve chemotherapy treatment.

NUI Galway researchers have been given the green light to conduct a ‘phase one’ clinical trial that will use a new experimental drug called Daratumumab (DARA).

The treatment will be for a type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma that affects approximately 250 people in Ireland each year, with 170 of that number succumbing to that disease.

Multiple myeloma arises from a type of white blood cell – known as a plasma cell – that normally produces antibodies to help fight infection.

When these plasma cells become cancerous (myeloma cells), they can produce an excess of a single antibody, which is harmful and stops the blood from working as it should.

DARA will be used in conjunction with the drugs Cyclophosphamide and Bortezomib, combined with standard chemotherapy care for newly diagnosed patients.

Blood cancer Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma cells. Image: NUI Galway

Trials to expand across Ireland

DARA by itself is a very promising new therapy for this particular cancer, and has recently been approved for treating patients who have relapsed.

This is the first study worldwide to combine DARA with cyclophosphamide, and will determine whether this combination results in a more effective treatment.

So far, six patients have been recruited for the trial by Blood Cancer Network Ireland (BCNI) at University Hospital Galway and Cork University Hospital, with expectations to expand into Dublin hospitals.

It is the first homegrown trial conducted by the BCNI and was the culmination of collaborative research efforts between the network’s scientists and Janssen pharmaceuticals.

The Irish Cancer Society’s head of research, Dr Robert O’Connor, said: “This latest clinical trial highlights the importance of investing in world-class, innovative and potentially life-changing Irish cancer research, and we hope that the patients taking part will help identify even more improvements in care and outcomes for this disease.”

Over the past two decades, major advances in the treatment of multiple myeloma have led to several new treatments, resulting in a doubling of survival rates over this period.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic