Thalidomide for treatment of multiple myeloma: 10 years later
Thalidomide, bortezomib, and lenalidomide have recently changed the treatment paradigm of myeloma. In young, newly diagnosed patients, the combination of thalidomide and dexamethasone has been widely used as induction treatment before autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT). In 2 randomized studies, consolidation or maintenance with low-dose thalidomide has extended both progression-free and overall survival in patients who underwent ASCT at diagnosis. In elderly, newly diagnosed patients, 3 independent randomized studies have reported that the oral combination of melphalan and prednisone plus thalidomide (MPT) is better than the standard melphalan and prednisone (MP). These studies have shown better progression-free survival, and 2 have shown improved overall survival for patients assigned to MPT. In refractory-relapsed disease, combinations including thalidomide with dexa-methasone, melphalan, doxorubicin, or cyclophosphamide have been extensively investigated. The risks of side effects are greater when thalidomide is used in combination with other drugs. Thromboembo lism and peripheral neuropathy are the major concern. The introduction of anticoagulant prophylaxis has reduced the rate of thromboembolism to less than 10%. Immediate thalidomide dose reduction or discontinuation when paresthesia is complicated by pain or motor deficit has decreased the severity of neuropathy. Future studies will define the most effective or the best sequence of combinations which could improve life expectancy.