The Role of B-Cell Maturation Antigen in the Biology and Management of, and as a Potential Therapeutic Target in, Multiple Myeloma

Target Oncol. 2018 Feb;13(1):39-47. doi: 10.1007/s11523-017-0538-x.


B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) was originally identified as a cell membrane receptor, expressed exclusively on late stage B-cells and plasma cells (PCs). Investigations of BCMA as a target for therapeutic intervention in multiple myeloma (MM) were initiated in 2007, using cSG1 as a naked antibody (Ab) as well as an Ab-drug conjugate (ADC) targeting BCMA, ultimately leading to ongoing clinical studies for previously treated MM patients. Since then, multiple companies have developed anti-BCMA-directed ADCs. Additionally, there are now three bispecific antibodies in development, which bind to both BCMA and CD3ε on T-cells. This latter binding results in T-cell recruitment and activation, causing target cell lysis. More recently, T-cells have been genetically engineered to recognize BCMA-expressing cells and, in 2013, the first report of anti-BCMA-chimeric antigen receptor T-cells showed that these killed MM cell lines and human MM xenografts in mice. BCMA is also solubilized in the blood (soluble BCMA [sBCMA]) and MM patients with progressive disease have significantly higher sBCMA levels than those responding to treatment. sBCMA circulating in the blood may limit the efficacy of these anti-BCMA-directed therapies. When sBCMA binds to B-cell activating factor (BAFF), BAFF is unable to perform its major biological function of inducing B-cell proliferation and differentiation into Ab-secreting PC. However, the use of γ-secretase inhibitors, which prevent shedding of BCMA from PCs, may improve the efficacy of these BCMA-directed therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Myeloma / immunology*
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology
  • Multiple Myeloma / therapy*