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New Drug Shows Promise for Myeloma Patients
Date:5/9/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Three new studies confirm that the drug lenalidomide can significantly lengthen the time that people with multiple myeloma experience no worsening of their disease, either after having a stem cell transplant or getting chemotherapy.

However, what isn't clear from the studies is whether or not the improved "progression-free" survival time will translate to a longer overall survival.

"These are very promising, early studies," said the author of an accompanying editorial, Dr. Ashraf Badros, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore. "I think these studies will generate a lot of discussion."

Potential areas of debate, he said, include whether or not progression-free survival is enough if there isn't an overall survival benefit. He said that progression-free survival may well justify this treatment if quality of life is significantly improved. However, none of the studies looked at quality-of-life measures. Another important factor is cost; this drug is estimated to cost about $163,381 a year to treat one patient, according to Badros' editorial.

The studies and the editorial are published in the May 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects plasma cells in the blood. Each year, about 22,000 Americans are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, according to the American Cancer Society. The current five-year survival rate for multiple myeloma is only 40 percent. However, recent advances will likely increase the survival rate for people who are diagnosed going forward, according to the cancer society.

Lenalidomide (Revlimid) alters the immune system response, and has direct toxic effects on tumors, according to background information in one of the studies.

In younger people, the standard treatment is generally a st
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