Research Perspectives:

Developing next generation immunomodulatory drugs and their combinations in multiple myeloma

Anjan Thakurta _, William E. Pierceall, Michael D. Amatangelo, Erin Flynt and Amit Agarwal

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Oncotarget. 2021; 12:1555-1563. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27973

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Anjan Thakurta1, William E. Pierceall1, Michael D. Amatangelo1, Erin Flynt1 and Amit Agarwal2

1 Translational Medicine, Bristol Myers Squibb, Summit, NJ, USA

2 Global Medical Affairs, Bristol Myers Squibb, Summit, NJ, USA

Correspondence to:

Anjan Thakurta,email: [email protected]

Keywords: multiple myeloma; combinations; immunomodulatory agents; apoptosis; protein degradation

Received: March 19, 2021     Accepted: May 13, 2021     Published: July 20, 2021

Copyright: © 2021 Thakurta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Multiple Myeloma (MM) is an incurable malignancy with current treatment choices primarily comprising combination regimens implemented with a risk-adapted approach. Cereblon (CRBN)-targeting immunomodulatory agents (IMiDs®) lenalidomide (LEN) and pomalidomide (POM) play a central role in combination regimens due to their pleiotropic antitumor/immunomodulatory mechanisms that synergize with many anti-myeloma approved or developmental agents. Currently, more potent next generation cereblon E3 ligase modulators (CELMoDs®) - iberdomide (IBER) and CC-92480 are in clinical development. With an expanding number of active agents/therapeutic modalities and a myriad of combinatorial possibilities, physicians and drug developers share an opportunity and challenge to combine and sequence therapies to maximize long-term patient benefit. Understanding drug mechanisms and their application in combination settings as well as the unique disease biology considerations from newly diagnosed (NDMM), relapsed/refractory (RRMM), and maintenance settings will be vital to guide the development of future MM therapies centered on a backbone of IMiD or CELMoD agents. Key aspects of drug activity are critical to consider while evaluating potential combinations: direct antitumor effects, indirect antitumor cytotoxicity, immune surveillance, and adverse side effects. In addition, the treatment journey from NDMM to early and late MM relapses are connected to genomic and immune changes associated with disease progression and acquisition of resistance mechanisms. Based on the types of combinations used and the goals of therapy, insights into mechanisms of drug activity and resistance may inform treatment decisions for patients with MM. Here we focus on the evolving understanding of the molecular mechanisms of CRBN-binding drugs and how they can be differentiated and suggest a strategic framework to optimize efficacy and safety of combinations using these agents.

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