World treatment first for Irish blood cancer patient

Categories: Research.

The patient was recruited for a clinical trial of the drug CMI-1271 at Beaumont Hospital. The trial is being run by Blood Cancer Network Ireland.

The drug was first tested in Ireland, the US and Australia in patients with acute myeloid leukaemia and early results from this trial have been promising.

It is now hoped the drug will prevent patients with “multiple myeloma” from relapsing after chemotherapy treatment.

About 250 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Ireland every year and 170 die from the disease. 

The GMI-1271 trial for multiple myeloma patients will also open in University Hospital Galway where Professor Michael O’Dwyer  who is director of Blood Cancer Network Ireland is leading the study.

Professor O’Dwyer said:“This new clinical trial highlights the huge strides in cancer research and clinical trials which Blood Cancer Network Ireland has been a part of since our establishment in November 2015.

“There are approximately 1,500 people in Ireland living with blood cancer. Blood cancers account for about 10 per cent of cancer deaths and it is the relapsed drug resistant cancer that is the cause of most deaths.

“The fact that this new trial provides hope for multiple myeloma patients is an exciting development that puts Blood Cancer Network Ireland at the forefront of blood cancer research on a global scale.”

Blood Cancer Network Ireland is a €2.7 million cancer research and clinical trials initiative funded by the Irish Cancer Society and Science Foundation Ireland which brings together clinicians, scientists, and population health experts across Galway, Cork and Dublin with a shared interest in blood cancer research.

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic system.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood arising from a type of white blood cell which is called a plasma cell. Plasma cells normally produce antibodies which help fight infection. In myeloma the plasma cells become cancerous and are called myeloma cells. These can produce an excess of a single antibody which is harmful and stops the blood from working properly.

In both acute myeloid leukaemia and multiple myeloma, some of the cancer cells can hide out in the bone marrow, where they stick to blood vessels, rendering chemotherapy less effective. This means that, even after chemotherapy has killed the majority of cancer cells, the cells in these ‘sanctuary sites’ survive and then go on to grow and multiply once again, causing the patient to relapse.

If successful, GMI-1271 will prevent or delay this relapse. By testing the drug in tandem with standard chemotherapy, it is hoped that cancer cells will be unable to anchor themselves to the bone marrow, allowing chemotherapy treatment to kill all cancer cells in the patient.

Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O’Connor, welcomed the new Phase 1 clinical trial and praised the work of researchers linked to Blood Cancer Network Ireland:

“The work being carried out by this country-wide network of clinicians, scientists, and population health experts highlights the importance of investing in such innovative and potentially life-changing cancer research.

“The Irish Cancer Society is proud to be partnering with Science Foundation Ireland on the funding of Blood Cancer Network Ireland, ensuring that Irish blood cancer patients benefit from the latest advances in cancer care and treatment,” Dr O’Connor said.


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