New Immunotherapy Offers Promise for Multiple Myeloma Cancer Treatment

Empliciti (Elotuzumab) is a new FDA approved immunotherapy for the treatment of multiple myeloma cancer.

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that occurs within the infection fighting plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell located in the bone marrow.

When plasma cells are healthy, these cells play an important part of the immune system, creating antibodies, such as immunoglobulins, that help the body attack and kill germs.

But with multiple myeloma cancer, cancerous cells multiply, producing an abnormal protein. These cells push out other healthy blood cells from the bone marrow, which may result in a weakened immune system, leading to anemia, damage to the bones and problems with the kidneys.

About the Drug Therapy
Empliciti is approved with the combination of two other FDA approved cancer drugs to treat multiple myeloma in patients who have received one to three prior myeloma therapies.

When combined with the drugs revlimid (lenalidomide) and dexamethasone (Decadron), empliciti improves progression free survival, compared to patients who who Rev helps to control multiple myeloma and prevent it from geeting worse, compared to patients who took revlimid and dexamethasone alone.

Empliciti belongs to a class of cancer drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, which are developed in the lab rather than by a person’s immune system. Once these antibodies are given, they help to alert the patient’s immune system to destroy the targeted cancer cell.

How Empliciti Works
As a treatment, Empliciti activates a key type of white blood cell in the immune system, referred to as the Natural Killer (NK) Cell, to find the myeloma cells to destroy them.

Empliciti binds to a protein known as SLAMF7, which is commonly found on the surface of myeloma cells. Empliciti identifies these cells so that they are easier to discover and then it activates the NK cells so that they can target the myeloma cells to destroy.

Developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Empliciti is given intravenously via an IV through a port directly into the vein, The treatment is given once a week for 2 cycles, then once every 2 weeks thereafter for as long as it is working or until it is no longer tolerated due to side effects.

Side Effects
A possible risk of a monoclonal treatment like Empliciti is that patients may experience an infusion reaction when the drug is administered.

Some of infusion reactions may be allergic or non-allergic reactions. These symptoms may include fever, chills, high or low blood pressure and slow heart rate.

If an infusion reaction occurs the infusion will be stopped. It may or may not be restarted depending on the severity of the reaction. About 70% of infusion reactions occur during the first dose.

Due to possible infusion reactions, patients are given the treatment in combination with drugs that will help prevent and manage a possible inflammatory response.

Common Side Effects

  • Mild infusion reaction

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Constipation

  • Cough

  • Numbness or Tingling in the Hands or Feet – Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Infection

  • Decreased Appetite

There are a number of things that can be done to manage the side effects of Empliciti. It’s important to let your health team know of any type of discomfort experienced during the treatment.

More Serious Side Effects

  • Severe infusion reaction

  • Pneumonia

  • Fever

  • Respiratory tract infection

  • Anemia – Low red blood cell count

  • Pulmonary embolism

  • Acute renal failure

  • Elevation of liver enzymes

Empliciti can cause fetal harm, so it is important to not be pregnant or become pregnant during the treatment. It also can get into breast milk so breastfeeding is not recommended.

As a cancer treatment for multiple myeloma, Empliciti is improving progression free survival It is another advancement that offers promise for controlling multiple myeloma and preventing this disease from getting worse,