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Vaccine for multiple myeloma produces cancer-fighting cells

1 year after BMT, it’s not clear whether the vaccine stops cancer from worsening

Age70 years old and younger
Number of Participants203
Research GoalImprove Survival
Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer. Blood or marrow transplant (BMT) can treat multiple myeloma, but the multiple myeloma usually comes back, or relapses. 

Researchers studied a personalized vaccine to see if it would prevent relapse after BMT. Each patient’s vaccine was made just for them, using their own tumor cells and dendritic cells combined into one cell in a lab. This vaccine was given to each patient to provide immunity against their cancer cells. 

Dendritic cells are a special kind of white blood cell that can recognize cancers and teach other white blood cells (T cells) to search and destroy cancer. So the dendritic cells are like generals who tell soldier T cells to target cancer cells. 

The multiple myeloma study took place in the US during 2016-2018. It included 140 people, aged 70 and younger. People were randomly divided into 3 groups of treatments: 
  • Vaccine + 2 medicines, called GM-CSF and lenalidomide 
  • 2 medicines (GM-CSF and lenalidomide
  • 1 medicine (lenalidomide

One year later: 
  • All 3 groups of people were equally likely to be alive without cancer. 
  • People who got dendritic cell vaccines had more T cells that fight multiple myeloma compared to people who did not get vaccines. 

Researchers said a study longer than 1 year might show whether or not the vaccine is helpful in the long-term. 

About the same number of people in all 3 groups had side effects, so it’s unlikely that the effects were from the vaccine alone. The most common side effects were disorders of the blood, digestive system, and nervous system.