Researchers have found that multiple myeloma patients given the anti-cancer drug Velcade (bortezomib) in combination with a more commonly used drug showed a fourfold increase in complete remission rates. Results from clinical trials testing Velcade (bortezomib) were presented at the 49th Annual Conference of the ASH (American Society of Hematology) held in Atlanta, Georgia, December 8-11th 2007.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma immune cells in the bone marrow and accounts for about 1 in 10 cases of haematological cancers. Multiple myeloma can cause osteolytic lesions (bone damage), anaemia (disease of the red blood cells), damage to organs such as the kidneys and immunosuppression (weakening of the immune system). About 74,000 new cases of multiple myeloma are diagnosed each year worldwide.
Treatments for multiple myeloma have developed significantly over the last 10 years and aim at both targeting the cancer itself and also replacing damaged cells of the bone, which is also known as stem cell therapy. Velcade (generic name: bortezomib) has been found to be effective in stopping the growth of a number of cancers. It is a drug that can be used to prepare patients for stem cell therapy.
This study compared treatment with Velcade (bortezomib), thalidomide and dexamethasone (VcTD) to thalidomide and dexamethasone (TD) alone in 256 patients with previously untreated multiple myeloma. Half of the patients received the VcTD treatment and the other received TD. TD is currently the most common treatment for patients with previously untreated multiple myeloma.
In the group of patients that were given VcTD, 36% showed a complete response to the drug (ie. the cancer was no longer evident), whereas only 9% of the patients given TD showed a complete response. After stem cell therapy the VcTD patient group showed a complete response rate of 57%, which again was much higher than the TD group that showed only a 28% complete response rate.
Complete remission is when all signs and symptoms of a disease are no longer evident. It is widely seen as a strong predictor of long-term survival. The dramatic fourfold increase in complete remission rates seen in this study show that Velcade combination therapy can improve the complete remission rates of commonly used multiple myeloma treatments.
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