Dr Simon Ridley, Myeloma UK’s Director of Research, is fronting the battle to make the treatment of myeloma a more efficient and patient focussed process in the future.

“Research into better diagnostics and new treatments should have achieving better patient outcomes at its very core.”

Myeloma UK’s health services research programme is aimed at doing just that. In trying to understand more about what the needs and preferences of myeloma patients are, the idea is to use that information to inform future research.

“The needs of a young patient will be very different to that of an older patient,” Ridley explained.

 

Our data could change the way drugs are assesed

 

We’re working with NICE to see how this data could be incorporated in to the way in which they assess drugs. It’s our role to help ensure there is the best possible evidence upon which to make those decisions.

Symptoms can include bone aches, back pains and a general increase in systemic infections. The non-specific nature of these symptoms, especially in elderly patients, can sometimes make identifying that individual as being at risk of developing myeloma an uphill battle.

Ridley spoke of how almost all people with myeloma will have had a malign pre-condition called MGUS (Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance), but only a small percentage of MGUS sufferers will go on to develop myeloma.

Developing a more effective way of telling what the risk factors are that cause MGUS to morph in to myeloma would be a huge breakthrough, enabling physicians to treat the disease earlier.

As it stands, research is heavily focussed on having a greater understanding of the genetic architecture of myeloma, in order to establish whether some existing drugs could be used to tackle biological abnormalities shared by both myeloma and other cancers. Collaboration with other researchers and organisations is a key aspect to Myeloma UK’s work in that area.

 

Recognising similarities and utilising other cancer treatments

 

“Understanding the disease’s make up can help identify new targets for drugs, drugs that may already being used in other areas of cancer research,” Ridley told me.

“If we can establish whether certain pathways or abnormalties are contributing to the progression of myeloma, it may well be that someone is already working on those pathways in another context.”

Given that myeloma is still currently an incurable form of cancer, Ridley remains hugely optimistic and passionate about the opportunities to build on recent successes. The future will see more challenges, but research's commitment to putting patients first is already bearing fruit.