Multiple myeloma is a rare type of blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow, and over a period of time can spread to other parts of the body as well – wherever there is marrow present. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, which are present in the bone marrow. Plasma cells are responsible for fighting against infections and to carry out this activity they normally manufacture antibodies to protect the body. However, once these plasma cells start to become malignant, they start making abnormal antibodies. Patients having multiple myeloma suffer from aches and pains, exhaustion; and since their bones become brittle, they are more prone to fractures and breaks.
Myeloma does not produce any symptoms till it has already reached an advanced stage of the disease and therefore standard treatments often find it difficult to treat this type of advanced stage of cancer. Today, there are several new and progressive treatments for multiple myeloma that have improved the prognosis for patients significantly. Let us take a look at what new and progressive treatments are available today for treating multiple myeloma.
Different Treatments for Multiple Myeloma`
Treatment for multiple myeloma depends on which stage your cancer is at. If you get diagnosed with multiple myeloma, but you are not really experiencing any symptoms, a stage known as smoldering multiple myeloma, then you might not need immediate treatment. However, even in this stage of multiple myeloma, your doctor will still continue to regularly monitor your condition to keep an eye out for any signs that your disease is progressing. This typically involves undergoing periodic urine and blood tests.
If you start to develop certain signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma or your condition starts exhibiting signs of the cancer progression, then your doctor will decide to start treatment for multiple myeloma.
Biological Therapy Drugs or Targeted Therapy Drugs for Treating Multiple Myeloma`
Your doctor is likely to begin treatment with biological therapy drugs or targeted therapy drugs. Targeted therapy medications focus on attacking the specific molecules that are involved in cancer growth. Some of the commonly used drugs for targeted therapy of multiple myeloma include:
- Velcade (bortezomib)
- Kyprolis (carfilzomib)
On the other hand, biological therapy works by strengthening the immune system and helping the body fight against the cancerous cells. Drugs prescribed in biological therapy include:
- Revlimid (lenalidomide)
- Thalomid (thalidomide)
- Pomalyst (pomalidomide)
Your doctor may also suggest that you take these drugs in combination with another therapy to get maximum results from your treatment of multiple myeloma.
Chemotherapy and radiation to kill the cancer cells may also be recommended in advanced stages of multiple myeloma. Your doctor may also consider a bone marrow transplant to replace the cancerous bone marrow, but only if you do not have any damage to your kidneys and liver and if you do not have any heart-related conditions.
Maintenance Therapy for Treatment of Multiple Myeloma`
Sometimes doctors also recommend maintenance therapy for multiple myeloma. Maintenance therapy helps in controlling the symptoms after you have achieved remission of the multiple myeloma cancer. In maintenance therapy, you will need to continue taking a targeted therapy drug or a corticosteroid, though at a lower dose, in order to prevent the multiple myeloma cancer from coming back.
If your multiple myeloma does not respond to any of these standard treatments, you might be shifted to hospice care or palliative care. Hospice care revolves around making you as comfortable as possible as the multiple myeloma cancer progresses beyond treatment, while palliative care focuses on treating the symptoms, but not the cancer anymore.
New & Progressive Treatments for Multiple Myeloma`
The development of new and progressive treatments for multiple myeloma is slow and in recent years only a handful of treatments have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As of 2016, the FDA approved three new and progressive drugs for treating multiple myeloma, but these drugs specifically focused on myeloma that has returned after a round of treatment has already been done.
- Darzalex (daratumumab)
- Ninlaro (ixazomib)
- Emplicit (elotuzumab)
Daratumumab is designed for patients who have earlier received at least three rounds of treatments. Ixazomib is for treating patients who have relapsed multiple myeloma, and who have also received one prior treatment. Elotuzumab, on the other hand, is for patients of multiple myeloma who have earlier had one to three rounds of therapies.
New Medicine/Treatments undergoing Clinical Trial for Multiple Myeloma`
Apart from these new medications for multiple myeloma, as recently as October 2018, a small clinical trial successfully tested a new drug that targets tumors in patients suffering from an aggressive form of multiple myeloma.
This early-stage clinical trial had only three patients, but it has shown one of the first-ever clinical evidence of this yet-unlicensed drug that has been successful in killing myeloma cells in the bone marrow, while also leaving the healthy tissue unharmed and untouched. The trial took place at the Imperial College London and the initial results are groundbreaking in that this is the first of its type of evidence to show that a compound can specifically target the cancer cells in the body, but at the same time leave no sign of toxicity and not harming the healthy cells either.
The new treatment would mean a better prognosis for patients with multiple myeloma, with the new therapy allowing patients to keep cancer under control for many years now. The results of the study have already been published in the British Journal of Hematology.
Presently there is no cure for multiple myeloma and treatment only focuses on either putting the cancer into remission or managing the symptoms of multiple myeloma. It is possible to achieve remission and for the best possible result with your treatment, you need to work together with your doctor to understand and determine which would be the best treatment for you. Remember that the best treatment might not necessarily involve treatment of multiple myeloma, but it might very well improve the quality of your life and also help you get relief from your symptoms from this disease.
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