I read in ScienceBlog a while back that a single antibody might finally present an actual cure for Multiple Myeloma. Of course, Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma and currently has no cure. The cancer reduces the production of antibodies, leaving patients more vulnerable to infections. Oddly enough, a lone antibody called BI-505 may be just the ticket to put Multiple Myeloma into the history books as a killer. I’m not normally very excitable at the promises made by medical company press releases. They tend to be more than self-serving and some are so bogus in their promise of an around-the-corner cure they should face criminal charges for fraud. The rest simply regurgitate things virtually everyone knows already. It’s hard to fault those articles, they’re trying to keep the cancer in the forefront in order to garner funding for needed research. That and making sure the public knows and understands what a blight it is.
I’m a supporter of antibodies as treatment. The idea of being able to vaccinate and let the body do the work of isolating and killig off the bad cells strikes me as the best approach. Especially so since standard therapies take such a huge toll. Current chemotherapy is a shotgun approach; they put toxins in the body that target high cellular activity. Cancer is active cellular activity, but so is the digestion system. But the chemo doesn’t limit its activities, it attacks less active cells as well, unfortunately some of those in the central nervous system resulting in neuropathy.
Allowing the body to use its own antibodies, even if jump-started artificially, is a more natural approach and continues as long as the person is alive, much the same as other vaccinations like those for smallpox or polio. It might be that a booster is needed somewhere along the line, but still, that beats the idea of side effects and killing off healthy cells collaterally.
So far there have benn experiments on mice and other test animals, and the results have been excellent –at least according to the article. It has apparently also been used on humans in last ditch attempts at saving lives and seen success as well. But there is still a long way to go in order to develop and mass produce the antibody, and to push it through the approval process. That needs to take time to make sure that there aren’t any long term negative effects. We still use it, but Revlimid has been clearly demonstrated to be responsible for secondary cancers, these being worse than Multiple Myeloma. Both the desire to recoup research and development dollars and get drugs on a profitable basis, along with the demands of Multiple Myeloma patients, has sped therapies through the approval system. Perhaps too quickly. While people are definitely suffering, it’s always best to take the slow approach and make sure we aren’t cleaning the house by burning it down.
It’s exciting to think that BI-505 might produce a simple and effective end to the suffering caused by Multiple Myeloma, and out of all of the possible future treatments talked about, I definitely like this one the best. The idea of using an antibody to kill off the cancer that destroys antibodies is my kind of irony.