The FDA just approved a blood cancer treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight off cancerous cells.
The drug, elotuzumab was developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbvie but will be marketed by Bristol-Myers alone under the name Empliciti.
This is the 40th new molecular entity (or drug that has never been approved before) that the FDA has signed off on in 2015 and the third new drug approved to treat this kind of blood cancer this month.
Empliciti will be used in combination with two other drugs to treat patients with multiple myeloma who have received one to three prior courses of medication.
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that forms in plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells. The cancerous cells win out over the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, which in turn leads to kidney problems when the cancer cells make abnormal proteins instead of antibodies. The FDA estimates there will be almost 27,000 cases of multiple myeloma this year and more than 11,000 deaths related to the cancer.
To fight this, Empliciti works to activate the body’s immune system to fend off the cancerous cells. In a clinical trial of more than 600 participants, Empliciti, when used with cancer drug Revlimid and steroid dexamethasone was better at delaying when the cancer worsened than just the two drugs alone.
That delay translated to a 30% relative reduction of risk that the disease would progress or lead to death, according to the study, which was published in August in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Empliciti represents a fundamentally different approach of directly activating the immune system in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma, delivering improved outcomes for those in need,” a BMS spokeswoman told Business Insider in an email.
Earlier this month, the FDA approved two other treatments for multiple myeloma, including another kind of monoclonal antibody drug (the same class of drug that elotuzumab is in).
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