Mayo Clinic study shows thalidomide significantly affects early-stage multiple myeloma

July 25, 2001

First published report to document effectiveness of drug as first-line treatment for this cancer of the blood

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- The early findings of a Mayo Clinic study, published this month in the journal Leukemia, indicate the drug thalidomide can stop or slow the progression of multiple myeloma in patients newly diagnosed with this cancer of the blood.

The Mayo Clinic study is the first published report to document the effectiveness of thalidomide, which was found to cause birth defects 30 years ago, as a first-line treatment for multiple myeloma. Patients in the study were considered to have either smoldering or indolent multiple myeloma. Previous studies at Mayo Clinic and other research centers have confirmed the usefulness of thalidomide for treating patients with advanced myeloma who had failed the standard treatments of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant.

"Fourteen of 16 patients with previously untreated early-stage multiple myeloma enrolled in our study either had or continue to have a positive response to treatment with thalidomide," says Vincent Rajkumar, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and lead researcher on the study.

"Eleven of 14 patients had a 25 percent or higher response in the myeloma protein levels with thalidomide," says Dr. Rajkumar. "Six of the patients showed a reduction in the myeloma protein levels by 50 percent or more. Only two patients had progressive worsening of myeloma while receiving thalidomide."

Dr. Rajkumar and nine other Mayo Clinic hematologists began the study in 1999.

"We intended to conduct the study for one year to learn how a few newly-diagnosed early-stage myeloma patients responded to thalidomide, but the encouraging results coupled with patients wanting to stay on the drug prompted us to continue the study and to publish our early findings," he says. "Several patients in the study are now in their third year of receiving thalidomide to control their myeloma."

Although the Mayo Clinic study indicates thalidomide significantly affects early-stage multiple myeloma, Dr. Rajkumar sounds a note of caution.

"We currently do not recommend routine use of any medication to treat myeloma at its very early (smoldering or indolent) stage because some patients can be stable for several months or years without any therapy," he says. "Given the encouraging results of our study with thalidomide, we are recommending additional randomized trials be conducted to determine if thalidomide can uniquely delay myeloma from progressing to the active, advanced stage."

He also says that, as with any anti-cancer drugs, the risks and benefits of thalidomide treatment need to be weighed for each patient.

"No treatment is without risk or side effects," says Dr. Rajkumar. "Seven of the 16 patients in our study experienced skin rash, 15 felt fatigued, 15 had constipation and 13 had mild numbness or tingling in their hands and feet. However, in most cases these symptoms are mild and can be usually relieved by supportive care measures and by reducing the dose of thalidomide."

Because of the adverse birth effects, women in the childbearing age group must undergo pregnancy testing before starting thalidomide treatment. During treatment, patients must abstain from sexual intercourse or use two highly effective contraceptive methods.

"On the benefit side, thalidomide involves taking a pill as opposed to receiving intravenous chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant," says Dr. Rajkumar. "It also may extend the length of time before a patient is required to undergo those treatments."

Multiple myeloma is not one of the major cancers, but it is among the most deadly and difficult to treat. About 14,000 Americans are diagnosed with the cancer each year. The cancer occurs predominantly in older people, with the average patient being age 65 years. The average life expectancy for a patient with the disease is three to four years.

Thalidomide was first marketed in 1956 as a sleeping pill and subsequently was found to be effective in reducing morning sickness from pregnancy. The drug was taken off the market worldwide in 1962 for causing birth defects. It has regained prominence in the past couple of years as a promising treatment for multiple myeloma.
-end-
TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Eastern
Test: 11:30-11:35 a.m.
Program: 11:35-noon

Central
Test: 10:30-10:35 a.m.
Program: 10:35-11:00 a.m.

Satellite Coordinates

Ku-Band
Satellite: Galaxy 11
Transponder: 13 (H)
Channel: 13
Downlink Frequency: 11960 MHz
Audio: 6.2 or 6.8 MHz
Longitude: 91° W

C-Band
Satellite: Galaxy 4
Transponder: 12 (V)
Channel: 12
Downlink Frequency: 3940 MHz
Audio: 6.2 or 6.8 MHz
Longitude: 99° W

Technical Questions Prior to Broadcast ONLY: 507-284-5964 (Mayo Clinic Video Communications). Satellite Technical Difficulties: 800-608-3663 (Strategic Television).

VIDEO ALERT: Video, including b-roll and sound bites from the subject expert, will be fed at 10:30 a.m. CDT on Thursday, July 26.

Mayo Clinic

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.