Oftentimes, patients with multiple myeloma experience disease progression even after receiving a stem cell transplant. However, according to a recent study, a new long-term therapy, lenalidomide, can be used after transplantation to slow down the progression of the disease.
The clinical trial, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, assessed the effect of maintenance lenalidomide therapy on disease-free survival after transplant. Lenalidomide is an oral drug that can be taken for many months or even years. Thomas Shea, MD, director of the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program and associate director for outreach programs at University of North Carolina Lineberger, and Don Gabriel, MD, professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology, were coauthors of the study.
The phase 3 study demonstrated that lenalidomide maintenance therapy is associated with significant improvements in patients who have undergone a stem cell transplant due to newly diagnosed myeloma. The probability of disease-free survival (the primary end point) for 3 years was 59% in the lenalidomide group, compared with 35% in the placebo group.
“The results of this trial will change our treatment of multiple myeloma patients,” said Shea. “While lenalidomide has some risks, including an increase in people developing second cancers, it generally appears to be well-tolerated when given long-term and was associated with a delay in time to progression of the myeloma as well as an improvement in overall survival” he added.