Protein doubles as diagnostic and drug target for blood cancer

Scientists have tied the activity of a life-supporting protein for cells to poor outcomes in patients with the blood cancer multiple myeloma, according to ScienceDaily. And their findings could aid clinicians in diagnosing patients while exposing a target for new therapies.

Drugmakers have created a wealth of new therapies for treating multiple myeloma--a rare cancer that corrupts plasma cells inside bones--with Revlimid from Celgene ($CELG) and Velcade from Takeda's Millennium. Yet drug researchers have sought ways to improve treatment of the disease, which remains a fatal illness for thousands patients around the world.

Singapore scientists believe that they might have found a way to wipe out multiple myeloma cells. In lab experiments, they found that Fas apoptosis inhibitory molecule (FAIM) appears to play a role in activating the Akt enzyme that allows cancer to thrive. They muted FAIM expression in cells and exposed a new opening to kill the cancer cells. The collaborators also pointed out a link between increased levels of FAIM in patients and poor survival in myeloma patients. 

Researchers have already been using FAIM, which prevents cells from dying, as a way to boost productivity of biomanufacturing. And scientists touted the myeloma discovery as a win for translational research and collaboration among groups in Singapore, which has invested heavily over the year in nurturing its life sciences industry.

"We identified FAIM as a new biomarker that is associated with poor outcome as well as an important mediator of growth signals in myeloma cells that could lead to drug resistance. The detection of this biomarker will allow us to identify these high risk patients and possibly develop treatments that target FAIM to improve their outcome," stated professor Lam Kong-Peng of Singapore's Bioprocessing Technology Institute.

"It is a prime example of how a better understanding of FAIM protein function enables us to first use it to increase yield in biologics manufacturing, and now as a potential prognostic biomarker in the clinic for a deadly human disease such as multiple myeloma," Kong-Peng said.

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