Multiple myeloma (MM) is a hematologic malignancy characterized by the proliferation of monoclonal plasma cells at multiple sites in the bone marrow, with accompanying alterations in the bone marrow microenvironment, and suppression of the host antitumor immune response, resulting in the uncontrolled accumulation of malignant plasma cells and excess secretion of immunoglobulins (paraproteins). MM, in almost all cases, is preceded by a premalignant phase, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).1 MGUS is present in ∼3% of the population aged >50 years and progresses through asymptomatic smoldering myeloma to symptomatic MM at a rate of 1% annually.2 MM is usually diagnosed when the disease becomes symptomatic, classically presenting with bone pain, anemia, renal insufficiency, hypercalcemia and recurrent infections due to immune deficiency. MM has an annual age-adjusted incidence of 5.8 cases per 100 000 of the population and predominantly affects older individuals; the median age at diagnosis is 69 years.3, 4
MM is an incurable disease and the survival prognosis for patients diagnosed with MM has historically been poor. The introduction of high-dose chemotherapy (HDT) followed by autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) in the 1980s improved response rates and progression-free survival (PFS), but median overall survival (OS) remained at <3 years throughout the 1990s.5 However, treatment options for patients with newly diagnosed MM (NDMM) have increased during the past decade with the introduction of novel therapies using thalidomide, lenalidomide and bortezomib. As a consequence, survival outcomes for patients with NDMM have greatly improved.6, 7 An analysis of survival trends in a large cohort in the United States identified that patients treated with one of the novel agents had significantly better OS and better survival time from relapse compared with patients who received conventional treatments.6 Patients aged <65 years at diagnosis now have a median survival time of 56 months; however, outcomes remain poor in NDMM patients aged >65 years for whom OS is only 26 months.8 The treatment of MM in elderly patients remains a clinical challenge—they are usually ineligible for stem cell transplantation and are unable to tolerate the toxicity of intense chemotherapy. Besides age at diagnosis and disease stage, prognosis is also adversely affected by the presence of several ‘high-risk’ genetic markers, including deletions of chromosome 13, hypodiploidy and deletions of chromosome 17p, t(4;14) or t(14;16).2
Significant improvements in response rates, PFS and OS have been seen in patients with NDMM treated with combination regimens based on immunomodulatory drugs (thalidomide and lenalidomide) and proteasome inhibitors (bortezomib).9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 These advances, coupled with an improved understanding of the disease, have shifted the treatment paradigm in MM. The current aim of this therapy for patients with NDMM is to achieve deep and long-term clinical remissions with early and continued use of regimens that are effective and safe to maintain disease control and extend OS.
The purpose of this supplement is to review current approaches to the treatment of NDMM, providing an update on the most recent developments and treatment regimens involving the novel therapies, and highlighting the key issues that clinicians face when devising a long-term management strategy for NDMM patients. In the first article, Drs Munshi and Girnius provide an overview of the current approaches related to the diagnosis and management of MGUS, smoldering MM and MM, highlighting the need for a long-term approach to optimize disease control and the importance of a risk-stratified approach to treatment. In the second article, Drs Giralt and Bensinger discuss the role of ASCT and the role of novel therapies in induction treatment. The question of how to optimize the response to ASCT using consolidation therapy with novel agents is then addressed by Drs Moreau and Touzeau, including a review of recent clinical evidence showing the benefit of post-transplantation maintenance treatment with novel agents to extend PFS. Finally, Professor San Miguel and Dr Mateos provide an overview of the treatment options available for NDMM patients ineligible for HDT–ASCT because of either advanced age or comorbid conditions. Again, the focus is on the way in which the novel therapies have transformed the treatment options available to this population, who represent the majority of NDMM patients. In this setting, early and continued treatment with novel agents appears to have the potential to extend survival times for elderly and frail patients for whom outcomes have remained poor.
Collectively, these articles illustrate how the introduction of novel agents, such as lenalidomide and bortezomib, has transformed the approach to treatment of NDMM and has provided a valuable clinical update for those working in this field.
Landgren O, Kyle RA, Pfeiffer RM, Katzmann JA, Caporaso NE, Hayes RB et al. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) consistently precedes multiple myeloma: a prospective study. Blood 2009; 113: 5412–5417.
Engelhardt M, Kleber M, Udi J, Wäsch R, Spencer A, Patriarca F et al. Consensus statement from European experts on the diagnosis, management and treatment of multiple myeloma: from standard therapy to novel approaches. Leuk Lymphoma 2010; 51: 1424–1443.
Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Neyman N, Aminou R, Altekruse SF et al. (eds) SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2009 (Vintage 2009 Populations). National Cancer Institute: Bethesda, MD, http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2009_pops09/, based on the November 2011 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER website, 2012.
Kristinsson SY, Landgren O, Dickman PW, Derolf AR, Björkholm M . Patterns of survival in multiple myeloma: a population-based study of patients diagnosed in Sweden from 1973 to 2003. J Clin Oncol 2007; 25: 1993–1999.
Kyle RA, Gertz MA, Witzig TE, Lust JA, Lacy MQ, Dispenzieri A et al. Review of 1027 patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. Mayo Clin Proc 2003; 78: 21–33.
Kumar SK, Rajkumar SV, Dispenzieri A, Lacy MQ, Hayman SR, Buadi FK et al. Improved survival in multiple myeloma and the impact of novel therapies. Blood 2008; 111: 2516–2520.
Brenner H, Gondos A, Pulte D . Expected long-term survival of patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2006-2010. Haematologica 2009; 94: 270–275.
Turesson I, Velez R, Kristinsson SY, Landgren O . Patterns of improved survival in patients with multiple myeloma in the twenty-first century: a population-based study. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28: 830–834.
Waage A, Palumbo AP, Fayers P, Beksac M, Hulin C, Mary J et al. MP versus MPT for previously untreated elderly patients with multiple myeloma: a meta-analysis of 1,682 individual patient data from six randomized clinical trials. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28 Suppl: (abstract 8130).
Rajkumar SV, Jacobus S, Callander NS, Fonseca R, Vesole DH, Williams ME et al. Lenalidomide plus high-dose dexamethasone versus lenalidomide plus low-dose dexamethasone as initial therapy for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma; an open label randomised controlled trial. Lancet Oncol 2010; 11: 29–37.
Palumbo A, Delforge M, Catalano J, Hajek R, Kropff M, Petrucci MT et al. A phase 3 study evaluating the efficacy and safety of lenalidomide combined with melphalan and prednisone in patients ≥65 years with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (NDMM): continuous use of lenalidomide vs fixed duration regimens. Blood 2010; 116: (abstract 622).
Palumbo A, Bringhen S, Cavalli M, Ria R, Offidani M, Patriarca F et al. Bortezomib, melphalan, prednisone and thalidomide followed by maintenance with bortezomib and thalidomide (VMPT-VT) for initial treatment of elderly multiple myeloma patients: updated follow-up and impact of prognostic factors. Blood 2010; 116: (abstract 620).
Sonneveld P, Schmidt-Wolf I, van der Holt B, el Jarari L, Bertsch U, Salwender H et al. HOVON-65/GMMG-HD4 Randomized phase III trial comparing bortezomib, doxorubicin, dexamethasone (PAD) vs VAD followed by high-dose melphalan (HDM) and maintenance with bortezomib or thalidomide in patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (MM). Blood 2010; 116: (abstract 40).
Harousseau JL, Attal ML, Avet-Loiseau H, Marit G, Caillot D, Mohty M et al. Bortezomib plus dexamethasone is superior to vincristine plus doxorubicin plus dexamethasone as induction treatment prior to autologous stem-cell transplantation in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma: results of the IFM 2005-01 phase III trial. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28: 4621–4629.
Cavo M, Tacchetti P, Patriarca F, Petrucci MT, Pantani L, Galli M et al. Bortezomib with thalidomide plus dexamethasone compared with thalidomide plus dexamethasone as induction therapy before, and consolidation therapy after, double autologous stem-cell transplantation in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma: a randomised phase 3 study. Lancet 2010; 376: 2075–2085.
Richardson PG, Weller E, Lonial S, Jakubowiak AJ, Jagannath S, Raje NS et al. Lenalidomide, bortezomib, and dexamethasone combination therapy in patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. Blood 2010; 116: 679–686.
I thank Shanthi Jayawardena, PhD, and Eva Polk, PhD (Excerpta Medica), for their writing assistance in the preparation of this manuscript. Editorial support was funded by Celgene Corporation. SL is supported by the Richard and Annelly Deets Fund for Multiple Myeloma. SL was fully responsible for all content and editorial decisions for this manuscript.
SL is a consultant for Millennium, Celgene Corporation, Novartis, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Onyx and Johnson & Johnson, with honoraria.
About this article
Cite this article
Lonial, S. Advances in current treatment for patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. Leukemia Suppl 2, S1–S2 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/leusup.2013.1