Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Quest Diagnostics collaborate to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 in individuals with precursor to multiple myeloma

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  • Collaboration will include COVID-19 IgG antibody testing for up to 1,000 study participants
  • Research aims to identify unique health challenges and treatment opportunities for individuals, particularly African Americans, with or at high risk of multiple myeloma after recovery from COVID-19 disease

Today, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, one of the world’s leading centers of cancer research and treatment, and Quest Diagnostics, (NYSE: DGX), the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, announced the start of  a new research study that provides free COVID-19 antibody testing to individuals who are at high risk of developing multiple myeloma.

The Immune Profiling with Antibody-based COVID-19 Testing (IMPACT) study will investigate the short and long-term impact of COVID-19 of a population who is at risk of developing myeloma or who has a precursor condition to myeloma. This population may be more susceptible to complications after exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 or during recovery from the disease. Precursor conditions for multiple myeloma include monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and smoldering multiple myeloma.

Through this collaboration, Quest Diagnostics will perform SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) IgG antibody testing at no cost to study participants through an in-kind donation to Dana-Farber.

“Quest Diagnostics is committed to understanding and exploring risk factors for COVID-19 and providing critical diagnostic insights that can help improve care,” said Yuri A. Fesko, MD, Senior Medical Director, Oncology, Quest Diagnostics. “Our research with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will improve scientific understanding of the unique health challenges facing patients at heightened risk for multiple myeloma and COVID-19 and potential paths to improve their care.”

According to Irene Ghobrial, MD, clinical investigator and senior physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine at Harvard School of Medicine, the goal of IMPACT is to understand what happens to the immune system in patients with multiple myeloma precursor conditions with COVID-19 infection.

“We ask whether those patients have a different immune system compared to healthy people in a large prospective cohort study,” said Ghobrial on IMPACT. “We look at antibody levels and changes in immune cells over one year of follow up, while also examining risk factors such as race, obesity, age, and stem cell mutations to rapidly inform the community on risk factors of worse outcome to COVID-19 infection and response to therapy, including vaccination.”

Multiple myeloma is not a common cancer, but it is the second most common blood cancer diagnosis, after non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in the United States.1 Multiple myeloma is difficult to diagnose early due to symptoms appearing at an advanced stage.

Currently, there are an estimated 12 million people who have MGUS and smoldering multiple myeloma.2 Because medical professionals do not look for this disease during a routine wellness visit or screen for this blood cancer, many people are unaware they have or are prone to developing the precursor conditions. According to Ghobrial, African Americans are even more severely affected by COVID-19, which may cause immune suppression.

Antibodies developed by the body in response to a viral infection may provide potential immunity against future infection. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, COVID-19 antibody testing may indicate that a “person has been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against it, which may mean that person has at least some immunity to the coronavirus." Antibody testing uses blood serum specimens and is sometimes referred to as serology testing.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no test currently in place to detect how a patient with MGUS and smoldering myeloma will respond to COVID-19 and a vaccine. IMPACT was created to provide answers to what happen to these patients when infected by COVID-19. The investigators will study 1) how will these individuals be affected by the virus and will they get affected at higher rates, 2) how severe is the prognosis, 3) what is the long-term immune response after infection in patients with precursor blood cancer compared to healthy individuals, 4) what is the long-term response after vaccination.  

“This study is critical to arm medical professionals with important information and guidance on how to proceed when treating patients with MGUS and smoldering multiple myeloma during the pandemic,” said Ghobrial.

Research shows that multiple myeloma, its precursor conditions, and COVID-19 disproportionately affect African Americans compared to White individuals. However, little is known about how exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 may influence risk of developing multiple myeloma in the future or the severity of the disease if it does occur. IMPACT is the first research study designed to answer these questions.

“Plasma cells secrete antibodies and antibodies are the first line of attack against COVID-19. By definition if you have MGUS and smoldering multiple myeloma, and you have a plasma cell problems, then you will have an issue where the immune system will be suppressed,” said Ghobrial. “We do not know how the immune system will respond to a COVID-19 infection in these patients, how the patients will respond to a vaccine when it eventually becomes available, and what is the long-term immunity of these patients in response to COVID-19 or to a vaccine.”

This study requires participants to be enrolled for one year, and if positive for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, provide blood samples every three months during this one-year period.

Participants must be part of either the PROMISE or PCROWD studies. The PROMISE study is a screening study that aims to enroll and screen for multiple myeloma or its precursor conditions but have not already been diagnosed with these conditions. The PCROWD study, a sister study for people with precursor conditions, is for adults who have been diagnosed with MGUS, smoldering multiple myeloma, or Waldenstrӧm Macroglobulinemia.

For more information, please visit and sign up for the free screening at www.theimpactstudy.org or call 617-582-8544.





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