Thalidomide, a breakthrough drug for multiple myeloma, is produced and marketed by Celgene Corporation as Thalomid(r). The company chemically altered thalidomide to make lenalidomide, known commercially as Revlimid(r), in hopes of reducing side effects and improving efficacy against the disease. The drugs attack both the malignant cells and the cellular environment that nurtures them.
Of 177 patients who received the lenalidomide combination therapy, 108 (61 percent) had complete, near-complete or partial responses to the medication compared with 35 patients out of 176 (19.9 percent) in the placebo-dexamethasone group.
An analysis by Michael Wang, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma at M. D. Anderson, found 56.8 percent of patients who had prior treatment with thalidomide before receiving the lenalidomide combination had a response, compared with 64.1 percent with no previous thalidomide treatment. "That suggests that the drugs differ enough to get a separate response, not just a refinement of side effects," Weber says.
The superior results for the combination also held up among patients previously treated with another new drug, bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor known commercially as Velcade and marketed by Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
Combinations of drugs are important in ongoing treatment as a patient's disease becomes resistant to one therapy. "It's great that this research gave us a new drug," Weber says, "But what we also find with new drugs is that they work well with older therapies, which gives us many combinations to offer our patients."
Lenalidomide is being tested as a front-line therapy and in combination with other medications in a variety of clinical trials.
|Contact: Scott Merville|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center