James R. Berenson, MD - Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research | James R. Berenson, MD : Founder & President

James R. Berenson, MD

Founder & President

Dr. Berenson founded the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research (IMBCR) in 2003 and serves as its Medical and Scientific Director: A mission-driven 501(C)3 non-profit institute is committed to advance the monitoring and treatment of multiple myeloma (MM) by connecting possibility through scientific innovation leading to personalized and continuous optimized patient care.
Following the discovery of the blood marker serum B-cell maturation antigen (sBCMA) that was identified in our laboratory several years ago, we have now made much progress showing its importance to predict outcomes and monitor patients with MM and other related forms of bone marrow-based cancer. The important breakthrough came when we found that it was a much faster way to assess whether patients were responding to treatment than the standardized blood tests that are used today. The earlier ability to determine this allows doctors to switch therapies for patients whose disease is worsening more quickly so that they do not continue to receive therapy that is not working and may be causing side effects without benefiting the patient. In addition, the amount of sBCMA in the blood at the start of treatment is highly predictive of how patients are going to respond to their treatment and should allow better identification of specific treatments for MM patients. In collaboration with Mayo Clinic, we have recently shown that sBCMA levels predict which patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a very common disorder which can be a precursor to myeloma, and so-called smoldering myeloma for which patients are monitored without treatment, are likely to develop active disease that requires treatment with medications.

Targeting BCMA has now become the most promising new way to treat myeloma patients. However, we have shown that the amount of BCMA in the blood can prevent these targeted therapies from working. Upon shedding, the BCMA in the blood can bind to the targeted treatment preventing it from working to eliminate the myeloma in the bone marrow. Notably, we have shown that specific drugs called gamma secretase inhibitors can stop BCMA from being shed into the blood from the tumor cells. This should improve the effectiveness of BCMA-targeted treatment approaches that are being used at a rapidly increasing rate to treat MM patients today.
We have helped identify a whole new class of drugs, the JAK inhibitors, to treat myeloma. Our laboratory work laid the groundwork for a clinical trial that showed that the addition of the JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib to other drugs including lenalidomide and steroids that the patient was failing, led to responses in many patients. Recently, we have also evaluated this JAK inhibitor without lenalidomide with early promising results for treating previously treated MM patients. We also have uncovered many new ways through which these drugs work to treat MM which have important implications for how they may be used in novel ways to treat these patients. Specifically, we uncovered their ability to boost the immune system by several different means which should increase the power of many other new immune-based therapies to not only knock out myeloma but many other types of cancers as well. Because of our research findings, new clinical trials are now being developed to test these approaches for patients with myeloma and other types of cancer.

Dr. Berenson has authored nearly 300 peer-reviewed publications and contributed to multiple book chapters. He has served as a member of the National Institutes of Health – Center for Scientific Review, Clinical Oncology Study Section and is a member of the Scientific Boards of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the International Myeloma Foundation. Dr. Berenson has also served on both the Foundation and the Scientific Boards of the Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma Society. Additionally, Dr Berenson is Section Editor for Supportive Cancer Therapy and on the Editorial Board of: Annals of Hematology, Annals of Oncology, British Journal of Hematology, Clinical Advances in Hematology & Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research, Clinical Lymphoma & Myeloma, Critical Reviews in Oncogenesis, Targeted Oncology, and provides Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care.