New CoMMpass bearings

Landmark multiple myeloma study takes on Department of Veterans Affairs as valuable new public partner

Jim Cirigliano
NORWALK, Conn.—The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation(MMRF) has expanded its landmark CoMMpass study to include a public-privatepartnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA willcollaborate with the MMRF study through a Cooperative Research and DevelopmentAgreement (CRADA).
The Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center and the East OrangeCampus of the VA New Jersey Health Care System have joined the nationwidenetwork of clinical sites participating in the MMRF-sponsored CoMMpass (or"Relating Clinical Outcomes in Multiple Myeloma to Personal Assessment of GeneticProfile") study. Patients at these centers are managed within the VA healthcaresystem.
 
 
The VA provides a valuable new patient base for inclusion inthe CoMMpass study. These patients are not often targeted for inclusion inprivate clinical trials, and represent an important population from both aresearch and clinical perspective. Multiple myeloma patients within the VA'shealthcare system come to the organization to learn about their treatmentoptions and what clinical trials are available to them. The VA has participatedin numerous clinical trials in its own right, and has contributed to 22 cancerdrugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
 
"This critical partnership with the VA reflects our strongcommitment to creating public access to cutting-edge scientific data andengaging the widest scientific community possible in the discovery process,"said MMRF Chief Operating Officer Walter M. Capone in a media releaseannouncing the collaboration. "The participation of the VA in the MMRF CoMMpassstudy ensures that we are capturing a truly diverse and representativepopulation of multiple myeloma patients that will better inform the developmentof hypotheses for targeted treatment approaches for this extremely heterogeneousdisease."
 
The CoMMpass study is a landmark, long-term clinical studyof multiple myeloma's natural history and its effects on the body at themolecular level. The study will follow 1,000 newly diagnosed multiple myelomapatients over a minimum of five years to understand the molecular and geneticchanges underpinning the evolution of the disease. The study will help tocorrelate vast amounts of data with real-world patient progress. As partners inthe study, the VA will measure their multiple myeloma patients' progress everythree or six months for five years. If the patients are willing to participate,their tissue samples will be sent to the MMRF for genome sequencing and othermolecular analyses.
 
 
Most contemporary treatments for multiple myeloma are notdirectly related to the disease's processes within the cell because thedisease's complexity and heterogeneity make it difficult to understand. Thecombination of factors leading to the development of the illness varies frompatient to patient, further complicating the prospect of targeted treatment.Molecular biology allows for researchers to begin to make sense of what changesoccur inside the diseased cells at the molecular level, and to personalizetreatments targeting these processes in individual patients.
 
 
"The more you understand about the disease, the better youcan treat it with minimal side effects, and the better the prospect for acure," says Dr. Shanti Srinivas, a hematology oncologist and principalinvestigator for the study at the VA New Jersey Health Care System.
 
Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of the blood. It hasone of the lowest five-year survival rates among all cancers. New agents inrecent years have allowed patients to live longer, but there is still no cureand survivability rates remain frustratingly low. An estimated 20,000 new casesare diagnosed every year, and currently close to 100,000 patients are livingwith the disease.
 
 
"We think the CoMMpass study is a noble effort to improvequality of life for multiple myeloma patients," says Srinivas. "It may not helpthe patients we're treating right now, but it will eventually give us theprospect for a cure."
 
 
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans HealthAdministration is home to the United States' largest integrated healthcaresystem, consisting of 152 medical centers, nearly 1,400 community-basedoutpatient clinics, community living centers, vet centers and domiciliaries.Together, these healthcare facilities and the more than 53,000 independentlicensed healthcare practitioners who work within them provide comprehensivecare to more than 8.3 million veterans each year.
 
The MMRF, established in 1998, is the world's leadingprivate funder of multiple myeloma research. The organization has raised morethan $200 million since its inception and directs 90 percent of its totalbudget to research and related programming, earning the organization CharityNavigator's highest four-star rating for outstanding fiscal responsibility andexceptional efficiency for nine consecutive years.
 

 
MMRF, GenoSpace launch 'information ecosystem'
 
NORWALK, Conn.—The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation(MMRF) also announced last month that it has partnered with GenoSpace, aCambridge, Mass.-based bioinformatics company, to create an "informationecosystem" that can be used by researchers, clinicians and patients to drivediscoveries in multiple myeloma.
 
The partnership will create a first-in-class, publiclyshared database comprised of a researcher gateway to access data from MMRF'sCoMMpass (or Relating Clinical Outcomes in Multiple Myeloma to PersonalAssessment of Genetic Profiles) study and a patient gateway to enable access toreal-time clinical and community support.
Centralizing such considerable multiple myeloma patient datamay accelerate discovery of individualized treatment approaches, biomarkers,diagnostics and new drug targets, the partners say.
 
 
"The comprehensive data generated from the MMRF CoMMpassStudy will be an invaluable resource for multiple myeloma research, providing abreadth of clinical and molecular data never before captured in this disease,"stated Kathy Giusti, founder and CEO of the MMRF. "Conveying this data openlyto clinicians and researchers in pursuit of individualized treatment approachesis critical to our mission."

Jim Cirigliano

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