So much has been written and said about myeloma this year. But what is the bottom line for important changes in 2014 versus 2013 and before? Here are the high points in the context of the IMF’s 10 Steps to Better Care, comprehensive guidelines with diagnostic and treatment information designed to ensure patients receive the best care.
Step 1: Know what you’re dealing with. Get the correct diagnosis.
Early diagnosis is the new theme. Now we can start to treat myeloma before anemia or bone and kidney damage emerge.
As a result, quality of life for myeloma patients will improve forever. Triple therapy with KRd (Kyprolis, Revlimid, low-dose dexamethasone) in high-risk smoldering myeloma is producing MRD-negative status (no residual disease as shown using the new flow method) and is undoubtedly the pathway to cure for some patients.
Step 2: Tests you really need.
Sensitive imaging techniques detect very early active disease. Whole-body, low-dose CT should be considered if there is a question of bone disease at diagnosis or relapse. PET-CT picks up active myeloma inside and outside bone.
Step 3: Initial treatment options.
Revlimid/dexamethasone (Rd) on a continuous basis is a new, simple option for ongoing disease control, especially for the elderly and/or unfit/frail patients. Triple therapy with Revlimid/dexamethasone and a proteasome inhibitor gives superior outcomes for fit patients with or without initial auto transplant. FISH testing has become more complex–but we still do not know how to treat high- and low-risk patients differently, beyond individual, careful discussion with your doctor.
Step 4: Supportive care and how to get it.
Despite recommendations to the contrary, I believe it is still very important to limit the use of bisphosphonate therapy (Aredia and Zometa). Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a concern with long-term use. Since novel therapy combinations produce deeper response than in the past, ongoing bone destruction is less often a concern, and any survival benefit with very long-term Zometa use remains questionable.
Step 5: Transplant: Do you need one?
Autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) is still an important treatment option. About 20% of patients have sustained remissions beyond 3 – 4 years with ASCT. ASCT with high-dose melphalan should be looked at as a consolidation that can provide benefit. It will be some years until we know which patients benefit the most.
Step 6: Response assessment: Is treatment working?
The new flow cytometry MRD test provides important pathways forward both for drug development and to achieve cure. When a new therapy leads to MRD-negative status for a patient, it can indicate that one therapy is decisively better than another. This can save millions of dollars and years in drug development time. As noted above, achieved MRD-negative status is the pathway to cure for the individual patient. You can read my blogs explaining this in more detail here, here, and here.
Step 7: Consolidation and/or maintenance.
Consolidation and maintenance are both ways to achieve a better response, either within a few months or with ongoing therapy. The clear benefits still need to be balanced against quality of life issues and costs–and discussed with your doctor on an individual basis.
Step 8: Keeping track of the myeloma: Monitoring without mystery.
The HevyLite test provides a new blood (serum) test to accurately measure response at a very low level. It is a more sensitive and precise test for low-level monitoring versus the IFE (immunofixation electrophoresis) test, especially for IgA myeloma.
Step 9: Relapse: Do you need a change in treatment?
It remains important to assess possible relapse very carefully. Maybe one lab test is just a mistake? Double check. Are there CRAB features? Is new treatment really needed? If new treatment IS needed, can a prior successful therapy work again? Discuss the options with your doctor.
Step 10: New trials: How to find them.
It is exciting to see truly new types of therapy having an impact! Anti-CD38 antibodies will definitely have a role. The striking response with measles virotherapy is a breath of fresh air in thinking about myeloma. If virotherapy really works, could a single shot cure the disease despite all the mutations and risk features we keep hearing and reading about? Perhaps. And wouldn’t that be amazing? So let’s see what happens with the new virotherapy trials Dr. Stephen Russell and the Mayo Clinic team are starting this fall. The first patient who received the massive dose of measles virus is still doing well.
As always stay tuned for updates: we have ASH 2014 to come!
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