Patients in Ireland suffering from a form of blood cancer are the first anywhere in the world to trial a new drug that it is hoped will become an effective treatment.

The medicine, Daratumumab (DARA), is a new treatment for multiple myeloma - an uncommon form of cancer which 250 people are diagnosed with in Ireland each year and which claims 170 lives.

Six patients recruited by Blood Cancer Network Ireland - a €2.7m clinical trials and research initiative of Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society - have already joined the early stage clinical trial of DARA.

They are being treated at Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway, with plans in place to also recruit patients in Dublin to take part.

The trial is being co-ordinated by scientists at NUI Galway and involves testing whether the addition of DARA to a standard chemotherapy can help newly those with a recent diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

The disease affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cells, that makes antibodies to fight infection.

In patients with multiple myeloma, the plasma cells turn cancerous and start making too much of a harmful antibody.

The trial is the result of research between BCNI and pharmaceutical company Janssen, which has shown that the combination with chemotherapy can make DARA work better.

"It is an exciting time for blood cancer research in Ireland," said Professor Michael O'Dwyer, BCNI Director, lead investigator and Consultant Haematologist at NUI Galway.

"This new trial, a first for BCNI, is another step forward in developing new treatment options for patients living with multiple myeloma."