Designer T cells to treat cancer: European research consortium takes the lead in CAR T cell immunotherapy against multiple myeloma
A new project, funded by the European Union, will push a revolutionary approach for blood cancer treatment to clinical practice. This international project is coordinated by the University Hospital Wuerzburg’s Department of Medicine II, a key opinion leader in cancer immunotherapy.
Beginning of the year, a new, EU-funded project on immunotherapy of cancer has started: CARAMBA.
Its aim is to transfer the revolutionary immunotherapy with so-called CAR-T cells for the treatment of Multiple Myeloma from bench to bedside. Multiple Myeloma is a form of blood cancer. For this international research programme, ten partners of six EU-countries are closely collaborating, among those four clinical centres of excellence for cancer treatment: apart from the University Hospital Wuerzburg (UKW), which leads the project as coordinating institution, the Italian Ospedale San Raffaele (Mailand), the Spanish Universidad de Navarra (Pamplona) and the French Lille University Hospital (CHU Lille) are represented. Further project partners are the patient organisation “Myeloma Patients Europe” (MPE), the DRK- Blutspendedienst Baden-Württemberg-Hessen (BSD-BRK), the German Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines (PEI), the biotech companies NBE-Therapeutics (Switzerland) and T-CURX (Germany) as well as the French project management provider ARTTIC S.A.S..
CAR T cells detect and destroy myeloma cells
In cancer medicine, the treatment of Non-Hodgkin-Lymphoma and of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia with CAR T-cells has already been approved in US. Within this novel EU-project CARAMBA, this innovative therapy will be applied for Multiple Myeloma treatment. White blood cells will be collected from patients and equipped with a so-called Chimeric Antigen-Receptor (CAR), which acts like a sensor that detects a molecule with the scientific name SLAMF7 on myeloma cells and destroys them. This novel therapeutic approach for multiple myeloma has been developed in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Hudecek at the Medical Clinic II of partner UKW, led by Prof. Dr. Hermann Einsele. In CARAMBA, the safety and efficacy of SLAMF7-specific CAR T cells will be evaluated in a Phase I/II clinical trial in patients. The European Commission selected the project from more than 100 highly-competitive project proposals and will support it over four years and a funding of 6.1 million Euro within the scope of the Horizon 2020 programme.
Prof. Einsele and Dr. Hudecek agree that “this new form of immunotherapy with CAR-T cells has the potential to fundamentally change the way multiple myeloma is being treated and ignites a new era of chemotherapy-free cancer medicine. Through support of the EU, our patients in Würzburg, Milano, Pamplona and Lille will be amongst the first to benefit from this highly innovative treatment”.
About Multiple Myeloma
In multiple myeloma a distinct subfamily of white blood cells, designated as plasma cells, are growing out of control. They flood the human body with deficiently built antibodies, suppress the formation of normal blood cells and destroy the skeleton through enhanced bone resorption.
Every year, about 3.500 people are newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Germany. With a Clinical Centre of Excellence in Multiple Myeloma care, a dedicated clinical service (Sander Therapieeinheit Multiples Myelom) and a highly compelling translational research programme, the Medical Clinic II of the University Hospital Würzburg, is the largest research and treatment centre for this disease in Europe.