Multiple myeloma (MM) remains an incurable malignancy of clonal plasma cells. Although the new generation of immunomodulatory agents, such as lenalidomide (LEN), and the potent proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (BORT) have significantly improved the overall survival of MM patients, all chemotherapy strategies are eventually hampered by the development of drug-resistance. The outcome of patients who are refractory to thalidomide, lenalidomide (LEN) and bortezomib (BORT) is very poor. Set out with the idea that targeted immunotherapy with human antibodies may offer new perspectives for MM patients, we have recently developed daratumumab (DARA), a CD38 human antibody with broad-spectrum killing activity, mainly via ADCC (antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity) and CDC (complement dependent cytotoxicity). In our previous preclinical studies and in current clinical phase I/II trials, DARA induces marked anti-MM activity.

Based on these encouraging results, we now explored the potential activity of DARA for patients who are refractory to LEN- and/or BORT. In a recently developed human-mouse hybrid model that allows the in vivo engraftment and outgrowth of patient-derived primary myeloma cells in immune deficient Rag2-/-gc-/- mice, single dose DARA treatment appeared to effectively inhibit the malignant expansion of primary MM cells derived from a LEN- and BORT-refractory patient, indicating the potential efficacy of DARA even in LEN/BORT refractory patients. To substantiate the conclusions of these in vivo data, we conducted in vitro assays, in which full BM-MNCs from LEN (n=11) and LEN/BORT (n=8) refractory patients were treated with DARA alone or the combination of DARA with LEN or BORT to induce MM cell lysis. As expected, LEN alone induced no or little lysis of MM cells in the LEN-refractory patients and also BORT was not able to induce any lysis in the BORT-refractory patients. On the contrary, DARA induced substantial levels of MM cell lysis in all LEN and LEN/BORT-refractory patients. This lysis was significantly enhanced by combination with LEN or BORT. The combination of DARA and BORT improved MM lysis by additive mechanisms. However, LEN improved DARA-mediated lysis of MM cells in a synergistic manner through the activation of effector cells involved in DARA-mediated ADCC.

In conclusion, our results demonstrate that DARA is also effective against multiple myeloma cells derived from LEN- and BORT-refractory patients. Especially LEN seems to improve responses in a synergistic manner. Our results provide a rationale for clinical evaluation of DARA in combination with LEN to achieve more effective results in LEN- and BORT-refractory patients.


Lammerts van Bueren:Genmab: Employment. Bakker:Genmab: Employment. Parren:Genmab: Employment. van de Donk:Celgene: Research Funding. Lokhorst:Genmab A/S: Consultancy, Research Funding; Celgene: Honoraria; Johnson-Cilag: Honoraria; Mudipharma: Honoraria.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.