- As Bluebird Bio moves its CAR-T therapy into human multiple myeloma trials, Celgene has paid the biotech $10 million as part of a previous opt-in agreement.
- Bluebird and Celgene are testing CAR-BMCA. It's a specific type of CAR-T in which a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA-chimeric antigen receptor) is added to a patient's T-cells and then re-introduced to the patient's immune system.
- National Institute of Health (NIH) researchers have also been developing this specific type of therapy for patients with multiple myeloma. Their data was presented at the American Society of Hematology meeting late last year. Among 12 patients with multiple myeloma who received multiple rounds of the CAR-BCMA therapy, the overall response rate was 33 percent. One patient even went into complete remission.
Last year, about 11,240 patients died from multiple myeloma—cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells. The same year, 2015, the FDA approved three new therapies for treatment of multiple myeloma, including Takeda's Ninlaro, Novartis's Farydak and Johnson & Johnson/Genmab's Darzalex.
Celgene and Bluebird are part of the renaissance in treating this relatively rare cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of 47%. The BCMA target has excited researchers because of the specificity of the target and the high level of responsiveness already demonstrated in the NCI trial.
The oncology community has high hopes for CAR-BMCA, and Celgene is now focused on working with Bluebird to drive this program forward as more patients are recruited and enrolled for further later-stage clinical study.