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Zeroing in on a pathway that drives myeloma

Myeloma is a blood cancer of the plasma cells, which is difficult to treat. Professor Ulf Klein is studying a signalling pathway thought to be involved in the disease in the hope of being able to identify new treatment targets.

The challenge

Myeloma is a cancer of cells known as plasma cells and remains a difficult disease to treat. To overcome this, it’s essential to develop our understanding of how the disease develops and to create new treatments. It’s known that in myeloma, a signalling pathway called the ‘NF-κB pathway’ is too active, which makes this pathway a good target for myeloma drugs. However, the pathway also plays an important role in many healthy cells and therefore if drugs targeted this pathway, it would affect and damage healthy cells too.

The project

It may be possible to target just one part of the pathway in myeloma cells while leaving other healthy cells unharmed. To find out whether this is the case, Professor Ulf Klein and his team are looking at a specific part of the pathway that some myeloma cells seem to require for growth. They want to understand how this pathway leads to uncontrollable growth of plasma cells and whether this is a specific feature cells that could be targeted by drugs, which would leave healthy cells unharmed. They will also develop a tool which could help researchers identify people with myeloma where this signalling pathway becomes overactive, helping them understand the driving force of their myeloma.

The future

If they are successful, their work could be the beginning of developing new therapies that target specific parts of this signalling pathway, providing much-needed new drugs that could treat not only myeloma but many other kinds of cancer. The research may also reveal drugs that could be repurposed and used in the treatment of myeloma.