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Amgen Advances the Immunotherapy Race in Multiple Myeloma
Posted: Sep 13, 2018
Amgen Advances the Immunotherapy Race in Multiple Myeloma image

Amgen recently announced that it has acquired global development and commercial rights from Boehringer Ingelheim for a bispecific (BiTE) antibody targeting BCMA in multiple myeloma. The BiTEs are yet another method to engage the immune system to target this common protein found on the surface of myeloma cells. 

Although they use a different and more simple approach than CAR T therapy, they target the same protein, potentially giving additional options to myeloma patients. 

“Obtaining global rights to BI 836909 (AMG 420) advances Amgen’s immuno-oncology strategy allowing us to leverage our expertise with the BiTE® platform to target BCMA in the multiple myeloma setting,” said Sean E. Harper, M.D., executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen. “Multiple myeloma is a rare and aggressive blood cancer and despite new advances there is currently no cure. BI 836909 (AMG 420) allows us to explore a potential new treatment approach that harnesses the immune system to fight multiple myeloma.”

Different from CAR T Therapy

CAR-T therapy takes a myeloma patients' T cells and engineers them to express a chimaeric protein that targets a specific antigen (like BCMA). When they are given back to the patient via an infusion, the T cells then target and kill cells with BCMA on them.

The Amgen drug is a "bispecific", or artificial antibody that target both the BCMA and CD3, a protein present on effector T cells.

The job of CD3 is to activate both the killing T cells and T helper cells. The BiTEs link the myeloma cells with the immune system cells to cause cell death. 

In other blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, the CAR T therapies seem to be stronger than the BiTEs in terms of initial remission rates, but they also come with a more complicated manufacturing process (because they are personalized for each patient.)

The off-the-shelf BiTE approach is welcome by multiple myeloma patients and it will be interesting to see further study results in future clinical trials. 

The author Jennifer Ahlstrom

about the author
Jennifer Ahlstrom

Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd). 

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