Focus on multiple myeloma treatment: Witnessing a transformation

David Cooney | 15th March 2016

I get very excited by science, specifically pharmacology, and when I was studying drug development I used to read case studies about the impact ground-breaking drugs had, and imagine what it must have been like to be part of that success. I used to harass an old mentor of mine who was involved in the Herceptin launch for stories about introducing such an innovative treatment, hoping one day I’d get a chance to be part of such a transformation in care.

I’m now part of a team at Blue Latitude Health working in multiple myeloma (MM), and with each publication that emerges, it’s clear that we are witnessing a transformation in the treatment of multiple myeloma. In this article, I will take you through how that transformation has happened, and where the treatment of multiple myeloma is heading.

The Therapeutic Index of multiple myeloma therapies

“It is easy to be overwhelmed by hype in cancer research, with promising new discoveries often portrayed as so-called game changers….but myeloma is a rare exception” [sic]

was the opening of a recent editorial in the Lancet on multiple myeloma. To appreciate the context of this statement we need to consider what treatment options were like for myeloma patients in the past.   

If we reflect on what the treatment options were 10 years ago, two drugs stand out – melphalan and thalidomide. Melphalan, a distant cousin of the mustard gas used to kill World War I soldiers, and thalidomide, the infamous chiral drug which caused birth defects in the 1960s. These drugs have been shown to be efficacious options for patients with MM, but with a low therapeutic index. This meant significant cost in terms of toxicity, and marginal impact on the overall survival of patients.

 

Download the full article to read more about the future of multiple myeloma treatment.

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