New CoMMpass bearings
January 2013
by Jim Cirigliano  |  Email the author


NORWALK, Conn.—The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) has expanded its landmark CoMMpass study to include a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA will collaborate with the MMRF study through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). The Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center and the East Orange Campus of the VA New Jersey Health Care System have joined the nationwide network of clinical sites participating in the MMRF-sponsored CoMMpass (or "Relating Clinical Outcomes in Multiple Myeloma to Personal Assessment of Genetic Profile") study. Patients at these centers are managed within the VA healthcare system.  
The VA provides a valuable new patient base for inclusion in the CoMMpass study. These patients are not often targeted for inclusion in private clinical trials, and represent an important population from both a research and clinical perspective. Multiple myeloma patients within the VA 's healthcare system come to the organization to learn about their treatment options and what clinical trials are available to them. The VA has participated in numerous clinical trials in its own right, and has contributed to 22 cancer drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"This critical partnership with the VA reflects our strong commitment to creating public access to cutting-edge scientific data and engaging the widest scientific community possible in the discovery process," said MMRF Chief Operating Officer Walter M. Capone in a media release announcing the collaboration. "The participation of the VA in the MMRF CoMMpass study ensures that we are capturing a truly diverse and representative population of multiple myeloma patients that will better inform the development of hypotheses for targeted treatment approaches for this extremely heterogeneous disease."
The CoMMpass study is a landmark, long-term clinical study of multiple myeloma's natural history and its effects on the body at the molecular level. The study will follow 1,000 newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients over a minimum of five years to understand the molecular and genetic changes underpinning the evolution of the disease. The study will help to correlate vast amounts of data with real-world patient progress. As partners in the study, the VA will measure their multiple myeloma patients' progress every three or six months for five years. If the patients are willing to participate, their tissue samples will be sent to the MMRF for genome sequencing and other molecular analyses.  
Most contemporary treatments for multiple myeloma are not directly related to the disease's processes within the cell because the disease's complexity and heterogeneity make it difficult to understand. The combination of factors leading to the development of the illness varies from patient to patient, further complicating the prospect of targeted treatment. Molecular biology allows for researchers to begin to make sense of what changes occur inside the diseased cells at the molecular level, and to personalize treatments targeting these processes in individual patients.  
"The more you understand about the disease, the better you can treat it with minimal side effects, and the better the prospect for a cure," says Dr. Shanti Srinivas, a hematology oncologist and principal investigator for the study at the VA New Jersey Health Care System.
Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of the blood. It has one of the lowest five-year survival rates among all cancers. New agents in recent years have allowed patients to live longer, but there is still no cure and survivability rates remain frustratingly low. An estimated 20,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, and currently close to 100,000 patients are living with the disease.  
"We think the CoMMpass study is a noble effort to improve quality of life for multiple myeloma patients," says Srinivas. "It may not help the patients we're treating right now, but it will eventually give us the prospect for a cure."  
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration is home to the United States' largest integrated healthcare system, consisting of 152 medical centers, nearly 1,400 community-based outpatient clinics, community living centers, vet centers and domiciliaries. Together, these healthcare facilities and the more than 53,000 independent licensed healthcare practitioners who work within them provide comprehensive care to more than 8.3 million veterans each year.
The MMRF, established in 1998, is the world's leading private funder of multiple myeloma research. The organization has raised more than $200 million since its inception and directs 90 percent of its total budget to research and related programming, earning the organization Charity Navigator's highest four-star rating for outstanding fiscal responsibility and exceptional efficiency for nine consecutive years.

MMRF, GenoSpace launch 'information ecosystem'
NORWALK, Conn.—The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) also announced last month that it has partnered with GenoSpace, a Cambridge, Mass.-based bioinformatics company, to create an "information ecosystem" that can be used by researchers, clinicians and patients to drive discoveries in multiple myeloma.
The partnership will create a first-in-class, publicly shared database comprised of a researcher gateway to access data from MMRF's CoMMpass (or Relating Clinical Outcomes in Multiple Myeloma to Personal Assessment of Genetic Profiles) study and a patient gateway to enable access to real-time clinical and community support. Centralizing such considerable multiple myeloma patient data may accelerate discovery of individualized treatment approaches, biomarkers, diagnostics and new drug targets, the partners say.  
"The comprehensive data generated from the MMRF CoMMpass Study will be an invaluable resource for multiple myeloma research, providing a breadth of clinical and molecular data never before captured in this disease," stated Kathy Giusti, founder and CEO of the MMRF. "Conveying this data openly to clinicians and researchers in pursuit of individualized treatment approaches is critical to our mission."
Code: E011320

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