In April, the International Myeloma Foundation proudly announced that the organization is the major funder of the world’s first large-scale screening study aimed at preventing myeloma before it develops.
The study, iStopMM (Iceland Screens Treats or Prevents Multiple Myeloma), will examine blood samples from approximately 140,000 adults over age 40 in Iceland for the earliest signs of myeloma. A cancer of the blood plasma cells that affects approximately 90,000 people in the US, and more than 200,000 people around the world, myeloma can go undiagnosed until the disease begins to seriously damage health.
“We are incredibly pleased to support the iStopMM project because we strongly believe that early treatment strategies could lead to the cure for myeloma,” IMF Chairman and Co-Founder Dr. Brian Durie said.
Dr. Durie leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®, a collaborative project to find a pathway to a cure for myeloma that currently supports more than 35 myeloma research efforts around the world, including the Iceland study.
Because nearly all citizens of Iceland over age 40 undergo routine blood tests, the country is an ideal setting for such research. After obtaining informed consent over the next few months of 2016, project leader Dr. Sigurdur Kristinsson of the University of Iceland and his team will screen blood samples from approximately 140,000 individuals for the precursors to myeloma – MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance) and smoldering myeloma.
Those individuals diagnosed with the precursors will then be invited to participate in a randomized clinical trial to identify the best strategy for treatment and to create a new risk model for disease progression.
“The IMF is excited to fund this study, which will finally shed light on how we can stop myeloma at its earliest stage, before it progresses into full-blown cancer,” said IMF President and Co-Founder Susie Novis Durie.
While most MGUS cases are never diagnosed, it is estimated that 4% of people over the age of 50 have MGUS.
“The impact of early diagnosis in a whole population is a very ambitious and challenging goal,” said Dr. Kristinsson. “With more potent therapies available with fewer side effects, it is very likely that treatment of precursor states will be shown to improve survival and quality of life in smoldering and MGUS patients.”
Binding Site, a UK-based maker of diagnostic assays, will perform the study’s initial screening phase, utilizing the Freelite® immunoassays and automated electrophoresis testing equipment, according to Dr. Stephen Harding, the company’s R&D Director.
The study’s co-principal investigator, Dr. Ola Landgren, Chief of Myeloma Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and his team will perform the molecular characterization of MGUS cases based on DNA sequencing of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow.