Those of us who have paid attention to the COVID19 pandemic may have heard the term monoclonal antibodies. These fascinating antibodies are created in a lab to trigger the immune system to destroy cells that have a particular specific antigen, or foreign substance or toxin in your blood. A particular antibody that targets the COVID19 virus has been developed to be given to people who develop COVID 19 and has saved many lives.
This week I was astonished to learn of the use of another monoclonal antibody, Daratumuab: to treat my cancer! In 2014, the appearance of a blood clot in each leg prompted my doctor to send me to a cancer specialist. His tests revealed that I have multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable blood cancer. I was treated for about three years and then taken off the medication in hopes that the disease was controlled. It remained controlled until this spring when the “numbers” start rising dramatically. It was decided that I would try a new treatment that has proved very promising.
Cancer is a disease caused by changes, also know as mutations, in DNA that change the way cells work in a variety of different ways. One way to destroy cancer cells is to use antibodies to protect the body against these foreign substances. An antibody is a protein that sticks to a specific type of protein called an antigen. When an antibody finds an antigen, it triggers the immune system to target and destroy it.
Last week I had my first injection of the monoclonal antibody Daratumumab. Daratumumab is a targeted antibody therapy that looks for CD38, a cell surface protein found on myeloma cells. When Daratumumab binds to CD38, it inhibits the grow of CD38 myeloma cells and causes cell death. And the cancer is gone. I will have weekly and then bi-weekly injections of this monoclonal antibody until the end of December. In May, 2022, I will have another blood test to see how successful this treatment has been.