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Employing multi-modal approaches to define immune and tumor cell dynamics, paving the way for more effective treatments across a broad spectrum of multiple myeloma patients. 

Goals and Approach

The Oncology Program at the Allen Institute for Immunology has a long-standing focus on multiple myeloma (MM), a hematological condition that affects approximately 1 in 130 individuals and is characterized by the abnormal proliferation of malignant clonal plasma cells in the bone marrow. This malignancy is often accompanied by increased expression of immunoglobulins, bone destruction, and displacement of hematopoietic cell lineages. Despite significant advancements, MM is a life-threatening disease that is rarely curable, and patients frequently face relapse or develop drug resistance. The integration of new immunological agents and immunotherapies with existing standards of care shows promise, emphasizing the ongoing need for combination therapies to mitigate relapse. The members of the Oncology Program are working with collaborators to define the molecular basis of the disease and its manifestations through the application of systems immunology approaches focused on blood, bone marrow, and extramedullary tumor sites. Their mission is to uncover basic principles that govern disease development and progression with the goal of improving patient outcomes. 

Gloved hand reaching into robot for an immunology experiment at the Allen Institute

Research Details

As a hematologic malignancy, in which the tumor is an immune cell, growing in the presence of an otherwise intact immune system, multiple myeloma offers unique opportunities to uncover basic immunologic principles. The Oncology Program is focused on understanding the heterogeneity of malignant plasma cells between patients and on defining how these differ biologically from long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in healthy individuals. Some of these tumor cells exhibit the ability to establish and maintain themselves outside the bone marrow niche as plasmacytomas, providing an opportunity to discover key molecular features of the microenvironment that can support plasma cell growth and survival.The researchers are also working to understand the impact of the tumor and treatments on the overall immune state of patients before and after initiation of therapy. 

Science Programs at Allen Institute