Celgene Inc. said on Sunday its cancer drug Thalomid improved survival by a significant amount in elderly patients with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
Data presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Atlanta showed that giving Thalomid in combination with two standard drugs improved survival compared with either the standard therapy alone or standard therapy plus a stem cell transplant.
The current standard first-line treatment for patients 65 and older is a combination of the drugs melphalan and prednisone, or MP. For younger patients, the standard treatment is an intense dose of melphalan followed by a stem cell transplant.
The average age of multiple myeloma patients is about 63.
The study, which included patients aged 65 to 75, showed that patients in the group that received MP and thalidomide survived an average of 53.6 months compared to 32.2 months for the MP group alone.
A group of patients that took high doses of melphalan followed by a stem cell transplant survived an average of 38.6 months.
“The results of MP plus thalidomide were so superior that enrollment in the study was stopped so that everyone who was receiving MP alone could have thalidomide added to their treatment,” said Dr. Thierry Facon, Professor of Hematology at the University of Lille, and the study’s lead author.
Side effects in the thalidomide group were considerably higher in either of the other groups: 12 percent of patients had deep-vein thrombosis, or blood clots, compared with 5 percent in the standard therapy group and 6.5 percent in the transplant group.
About 30 percent of the thalidomide group experienced tingling or numbness in the extremities, which was not experienced at all by patients in the other groups.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.