Thalidomide Fights Multiple Myeloma

Once controversial drug may help delay progression of cancer for up to two years

FRIDAY, April 4, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Thalidomide may help slow the progression of early-stage multiple myeloma and delay the need for chemotherapy or more aggressive treatment for as long as two years.

So says a Mayo Clinic study, published in the April issue of Leukemia, which is the first to show that thalidomide may be effective for some people with multiple myeloma, an incurable bone marrow cancer.

The study included 31 people with previously untreated, early-stage myeloma. After a year of treatment with thalidomide, about 80 percent of the people in the study had no disease progression and 63 percent were progression-free after two years.

On average, a person with multiple myeloma progresses to a symptomatic stage of the disease within two years and needs chemotherapy treatments and stem cell transplantation.

"A direct benefit to patients of delaying the inevitable progression is the ability to live a productive life longer before needing to receive the intense treatments," lead author Dr. Vincent Rajkumar says in a news release.

But he cautions that thalidomide does have potential side effects. At this point, he doesn't recommend it for treatment of early stage myeloma outside an approved clinical trial.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about multiple myeloma.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, April 2, 2003
Consumer News