Drug Combo Kills Multiple Myeloma Cells

(Image credit: Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock)

A new treatment for multiple myeloma, the second most common form of blood cancer, might be on the horizon.

In promising lab experiments and tests on mice, researchers found that a combination of the drugs obatoclax and flavopiridol can dramatically increase the cancer cells' rate of self-destruction.

Cancer cells divide uncontrollably and fail in recognizing signals to undergo the important biological process known as apoptosis, or cellular suicide. Obatoclax, an experimental agent, works by disabling the proteins that prevent the multiple myeloma cells from undergoing apoptosis. Flavopiridol, meanwhile, blocks the growth of cancer cells in addition to reducing levels of anti-apoptotic proteins, the researchers said.

In the study, which appears in the journal Cancer Research, the drugs significantly improved the survival of immune-compromised mice with human multiple myeloma, the researchers said.

"Our findings could have immediate implications for the design of clinical trials using combinations of these types of drugs," researcher Steven Grant, of the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, said in a statement. Plans to develop such a trial at Massey are already underway, Grant added.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells — a type of white blood cells in bone marrow — which normally make antibodies that fight infections. Symptoms of the cancer can include fatigue, fractures or damage to bones, kidney failure, and problems with the immune system.

"There is an urgent need for curative therapies for multiple myeloma," Grant said. "Our hope is that this research will lay the foundation for new and more effective treatments for patients with multiple myeloma and potentially other blood cancers for which adequate therapies are lacking."

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and Space.com since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.