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Studying how the immune system behaves in myeloma

We need to find better ways to treat myeloma. Prof Kwee Yong is studying how the immune system changes in myeloma and during its treatment. She hopes that this could help people with myeloma keep their cancer at bay for longer.

Professor Kwee Yong smiling.

Professor Kwee Yong


The challenge

Myeloma is a cancer that occurs in the bone marrow. Stem cell transplants can help people with myeloma to keep their disease at bay, but they don’t always work for everyone. We need to find new ways to treat people with myeloma to help contain their disease for longer.

The project

Prof Kwee Yong is leading a clinical trial called RADAR, where people who have recently been diagnosed with myeloma receive a stem cell transplant. If there are any remaining signs of their disease, the participants will then receive further treatments. These treatments include immunotherapy drugs, which encourage the immune system to attack the myeloma cells. In this project supported by Blood Cancer UK, Prof Yong will study how myeloma can change how the immune system works. Some immune cells might actually help myeloma by stopping the immune system from attacking the cancer. Prof Yong thinks that people who have lots of these cells have a higher chance of their myeloma come back after treatment. Prof Yong will study blood and bone marrow samples from people taking part in the RADAR trial. She will first look at the immune cells present before and after they received the stem cell transplant. In doing this, she hopes to develop a way to help doctors predict whether a stem cell transplant is going to be successful for a person with myeloma. Some of the people in the trial will receive immunotherapy drugs after their transplant. Prof Yong hopes to also find a way to predict how effective these immunotherapies will be at controlling myeloma. She will do this by studying changes to the immune cells in the bone marrow before and after immunotherapy treatment.

The future

Prof Yong’s research will improve our understanding of how the immune system changes in myeloma and its treatment. In the future, this could help doctors decide on the best treatments for a person diagnosed with myeloma. Ultimately, this will help these people keep the disease at bay for longer and enjoy a good quality of life.