When a multiple myeloma patient becomes resistant to the usual chemotherapy agents, especially bortezomib, they usually succumb within 9 months. This cancer of the blood and lymph system has been extensively researched and a temporary success rate of 30% is considered an achievement. Currently, most of the researched drug options that approach that success rate are prohibitively expensive.
Dr. Driessen and his team have completed a trial in which 4 patients (out of 7) had limited success when he combined bortezomib with nelfinavir, an inexpensive HIV drug. It appears this unique combination reverses the bortezomib resistance and possibly giving multiple myeloma patients a longer lifespan. If this study affirms a >30% success rate, an immediate and affordable treatment may have been identified. [Awarded 2013]
The first recipient of Gateway’s new international joint cancer research grant is Dr. Christoph Driessen of Switzerland for his highly promising approach to treating chemo-resistant multiple myeloma with a readily available HIV drug. Multiple myeloma is one of the most frequent malignancies of the blood and lymph system. Although the introduction of two novel drugs, lenalidomide and in particular bortezomib, have significantly improved the treatment options for myeloma, the majority of myeloma patients still die from their disease. In most cases, the disease has developed resistance against bortezomib treatment. In this bortezomib-resistant condition of myeloma the average life expectancy of patient is only 9 months. Based on their preclinical and early clinical research, this team has identified the HIV drug nelfinavir as a potential active drug for these patients. Nelfinavir can re-sensitize myeloma for bortezomib treatment and thus overcome bortezomib resistance in laboratory experiments. The study may therefore identify nelfinavir as an immediately available, affordable, safe therapy line.