October 22, 2020
For this year’s IMF 14th Annual Virtual Comedy Celebration (Friday, October 23, at 6 p.m. PT/ 9 p.m. ET), we are so blessed to have the cast from “Everybody Loves Raymond” recreate the classic sitcom with scene readings from favorite episodes. This not-to-be-missed event will raise funds for the Black Swan Research Initiative, the IMF’s global effort dedicated to finding a cure for myeloma.
Enormous thanks go to Loraine Alterman Boyle. She has graciously chaired the annual event since 2007 in honor of her late husband, the actor Peter Boyle. A star of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Peter battled courageously against myeloma. And our thanks as well to the generous Ray Romano. He starred as the sitcom’s title character and will, once again, host this annual event, which has raised huge funding to find a cure in Peter Boyle’s memory.
Where are we in the search for a cure?
The Black Swan Research Initiative is conducting both laboratory and treatment trials whose goals are to achieve the very best results with currently available therapies. Using the best drug combinations at the ideal early time point, the results are extremely promising. For example, in patients with high-risk smoldering myeloma (the earliest stage at which treatment can be used), about 70% of patients have no evidence of myeloma on bone marrow testing, a status often referred to as MRD (minimal residual disease) negative. The key next step is to monitor closely and document sustained MRD negativity to make sure there is no myeloma in any spots outside the bone marrow.
We are already optimistic that a substantial percentage of patients will remain in remission at five years and beyond, and may, indeed, be cured. Although we are aware of the need for additional therapies to recover response or to achieve full minimal residual disease status, the availability of new exciting immune therapies is an extra bonus in the push to optimize the very best results.
Prevention through early intervention
An exciting project in Iceland, the IMF-supported iStopMM project (Iceland Screens Treats Or Prevents Multiple Myeloma), is providing the opportunity to assess patients right when triggering events are occurring, at the very start of the myeloma. This phase is called MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance). By screening everyone in Iceland over the age of 40, we can begin to answer critical questions, such as: What is triggering the onset of MGUS leading to myeloma? Is there an underlying genetic predisposition?
The deCODE Genetics institute in Reykjavik, headed by Prof. Kari Stefansson, has full genetic sequencing information available as a resource. Prof. Stefansson is just starting to scratch the surface to determine if any genetic predisposing factors are involved in the development of myeloma. Is it due to toxic exposure? Is caused by infection? Is it related to diet?
We are investigating all of these possibilities. It has been noted that the very healthy, fish-heavy diet in Iceland confers a lesser risk for transition to active myeloma. There is much to be learned by the iStopMM team, but we expect that a range of prevention strategies will emerge in the coming few years. Thus, in Iceland, the onset of disease will be curtailed, and early decisive interventions can lead to a cure or cures.
Again, we offer a heartfelt thanks to the many talented and hard-working people who have made Friday night’s show possible, as well as the generous donors who have made the ongoing research possible! Thanks, especially, to Loraine Boyle and her team, including vice-chairs Laurie Kuzneski and Carol Klein, for their energy and passion. And, of course, we appreciate Ken Shapiro, our producer par excellence, who has been with us all the way.
I invite you to tune in on Friday night, enjoy, and help us move forward towards myeloma prevention and a cure.
Thank you! Be well and stay safe.
Dr. Brian G.M. Durie serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.