Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF): Thalidomide Important Treatment Option for Myeloma Patients at all Stages of the Disease

March 10, 2006

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) recognizes the important role of thalidomide in treating multiple myeloma patients at all stages of the disease and cautions patients not to be confused by recent media coverage suggesting that thalidomide is ineffective in treating patients with multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of the plasma cell, with a five-year survival rate of only 32 percent–one of the lowest of all cancers–and few treatment options. Thalidomide is widely accepted as one the most significant advances in the treatment of multiple myeloma and is used extensively–as alone or as part of combination therapy–to treat myeloma patients with varying stages of disease progression.

Some patients may be concerned by the recent reporting of a study, published in the March 9th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, concerning a single institution's experience in administering thalidomide as part of a complex and intensive treatment regimen. By and large, these reports focused on the lack in of benefit of overall survival in this specific setting, but failed to report that thalidomide increased the frequency of complete responses and extended event–free survival.

The MMRF remains encouraged by the extensive body of evidence demonstrating the benefit of thalidomide in combination with other novel agents and with the standard chemotherapy agent dexamethasone. Notably, these combinations have shown promising results as a treatment for patients with relapsed and/or refractory multiple myeloma as well as a front–line therapy for the disease.

The MMRF is also optimistic about pivotal new data, published in the March 11th issue of The Lancet, which suggest that patients treated with thalidomide in combination with melphalan and prednisone had higher response rates and longer event–free survival than patients treated with melphalan and prednisone alone.

The MMRF strongly urges multiple myeloma patients to speak with their physician if they have any concerns or questions about thalidomide and not to change their medication regimen without speaking with their physician.