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Multiple myeloma: the disease and its treatment


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Multiple myeloma represents a malignant proliferation of plasma cells derived from a single clone. The tumor, its products and the host response to it result in a number of organ dysfunctions and symptoms of bone pain, fracture, anemia, hypercalcemia, susceptibility to infection, neurologic symptoms, clotting abnormalities and manifestations of hyperviscosity. The cause of myeloma remains unexplained but it is associated with few occupations, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune illnesses, viral infections and genetic heterogeneity. Direct interaction between multiple myeloma cells and bone marrow cells activates pleiotropic signalling pathways that mediate growth, survival, migration of multiple myeloma cells and also resistance to chemotherapy. Although myeloma remains incurable, but the use of novel drugs like thalidomide, lenalidomide and bortezomib have resulted in a paradigm change in the therapy of myeloma. Their inclusion in current multiple myeloma treatment regimens have extended median overall survival especially in younger patient population. Recent advances in the molecular genetics have provided opportunities to design highly specific inhibitors of signal transduction pathways that may enhance the efficacy of standard chemotherapy drugs by reducing or altering the pathways associated with cell survival. Despite therapeutic advances, multiple myeloma ultimately relapses and remains an incurable disease. Current research goals are to further increase our knowledge, to identify additional targeted therapies, and to reduce adverse effects and improve response rate. This review focuses on recent clinical advancement in ant myeloma strategies with additional discussion dedicated to emerging drugs that may prove beneficial to patients with this disease. [Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol 2013; 2(2.000): 103-121]
Content may be subject to copyright. International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 103
IJBCP International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology
Print ISSN: 2319-2003 | Online ISSN: 2279-0780
Review Article
Multiple myeloma: the disease and its treatment
Meenakshi Guptaa*, Rana Arun Gopal Krishan Palb, Deepika Tikooa
Multiple Myeloma (MM) though lowest in developing
countries including Asia, is highest in African-American
and Pacific islanders; intermediate in Europeans and
North American Caucasians. The higher incidence in
more developed countries may result from the
combination of a longer life expectancy, more frequent
medical surveillance and due to heightened awareness of
the disease.1 Myeloma accounts for 13% of all the
hematologic malignancies and 2% of all the malignant
diseases. The incidence of myeloma is around 1-9 per
100,000 per year worldwide with higher incidence in
North America 7.1 per 100,000 per year.2,3 Myeloma
increases in incidence with age. The median age at
diagnosis is 62-65years in industrialized nations and is
about a decade less in developing countries (median age
in India is 55-56years).2-4 About 14,400 cases of MM are
diagnosed each year, and 11,200 deaths were recorded in
the United States in 20015 and in 2007, 19,900 cases were
diagnosed while 10,790 deaths were recorded in United
States.1 Median survival is 50-55months.6 The male to
female ratio is higher 1.2-1.5:14,7 Despite these
differences in prevalence, the characteristics, response to
therapy and prognosis of myeloma are similar
The term multiple myeloma (from Gk. Myelo-, bone
marrow), was coined in 1873 by Von Rustizky.8 It is also
known as plasma cell myeloma, or as Kahler's disease
(after Otto Kahler).9 Myeloma is an accumulation of
malfunctioning or cancerous plasma cells. Despite the
name myeloma, this form of cancer does not involve
myeloid cells, as plasma cells are lymphoid, but is so
named because it mainly involves the myelum (bone
marrow). Most plasma cells reside in the bone marrow,
Multiple myeloma represents a malignant proliferation of plasma cells
derived from a single clone. The tumor, its products and the host response to
it result in a number of organ dysfunctions and symptoms of bone pain,
fracture, anemia, hypercalcemia, susceptibility to infection, neurologic
symptoms, clotting abnormalities and manifestations of hyperviscosity. The
cause of myeloma remains unexplained but it is associated with few
occupations, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune illnesses, viral infections
and genetic heterogeneity. Direct interaction between multiple myeloma
cells and bone marrow cells activates pleiotropic signalling pathways that
mediate growth, survival, migration of multiple myeloma cells and also
resistance to chemotherapy. Although myeloma remains incurable, but the
use of novel drugs like thalidomide, lenalidomide and bortezomib have
resulted in a paradigm change in the therapy of myeloma. Their inclusion in
current multiple myeloma treatment regimens have extended median overall
survival especially in younger patient population. Recent advances in the
molecular genetics have provided opportunities to design highly specific
inhibitors of signal transduction pathways that may enhance the efficacy of
standard chemotherapy drugs by reducing or altering the pathways
associated with cell survival. Despite therapeutic advances, multiple
myeloma ultimately relapses and remains an incurable disease. Current
research goals are to further increase our knowledge, to identify additional
targeted therapies, and to reduce adverse effects and improve response rate.
This review focuses on recent clinical advancement in ant myeloma
strategies with additional discussion dedicated to emerging drugs that may
prove beneficial to patients with this disease.
Keywords: Myeloma, Thalidomide, Lenalidomide, Bortezomib, Therapy
doi: 10.5455/2319-2003.ijbcp20130302
aDepartment of Pharmacology, Sri
Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical
sciences and Research, Vallah,
Amritsar-143001, Punjab, India,
bDepartment of Pathology, Genesis
Institute of Dental Sciences &
Research, Ferozepur-152002, Punjab,
Received: 23 January 2013
Accepted: 27 January 2013
*Correspondence to:
Dr. Meenakshi Gupta,
© 2013 Gupta M et al. This is an
open-access article distributed under
the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is
properly cited.
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 104
and myeloma, usually occurs within the marrow of large
bones of the body, such as the skull, vertebrae (spine),
and hips. Plasma cells that have undergone malignant
transformation do so in clumps and usually at many sites,
which explains the terminology "multiple myeloma." The
net effect is the appearance of large numbers of abnormal
cells capable of forming bodily masses, or tumors, with
the capacity to advance locally and invade adjacent
tissues and organs or spread either through the lymphatics
or the blood vessels into distant organs.10
The cause of MM remains unexplained. Myeloma
occurred with increased frequency in those exposed to the
radiation of nuclear warheads in World War II after 20-
year latency.1 It has been seen more commonly among
farmers,11 wood workers, leather workers, those exposed
to petroleum products and radiation related occupations.12
Several studies have suggested that myeloma risk is
associated with past history of infections,13 inflammatory
conditions, connective tissue disorders, autoimmune
illnesses and allergy related disorder. In addition MM and
viral infection like HIV14, Hepatitis C15 and Herpesvirus
816 may also be associated. There is considerable genetic
heterogeneity among patients of MM that impacts disease
progression and response to therapy. A variety of
chromosomal aberrations like del(13q14)
t(11;14)(q13;q32), t(4;14)(p16;q32), MYC
rearrangements, hyperdiploidy, and del(17p13) has been
A causal relationship between monoclonal gammopathy
of undetermined significance (MGUS) or MM and
chronic antigenic stimulation has been suggested.18 A 2-3
fold higher risk of developing MGUS or MM has been
reported in family members of patients with MGUS or
MM.19,20 MGUS is considered to be initial event in the
pathogenesis of myeloma. MGUS is a premalignant
condition that may progress to smoldering multiple
myeloma (SMM), and ultimately symptomatic
intramedullary or extra medullary myeloma or plasma
cell leukemia. The risk of progression of MGUS to
multiple myeloma- related disorder is thus approximately
1% per year.21
The neoplastic event in myeloma may involve cells
earlier in B-cell differentiation than the plasma cell.
When B-lymphocytes are made by bone marrow, they are
stimulated by antigen in the lymph node into two kinds of
plasma cells, the pregerminal center plasma cell (Pre
GCPC) and the postgerminal center plasma cell (post
GCPC). Pre GCPC is usually short lived. In contrast post
GCPC are long lived and they migrate to bone marrow.
Multiple myeloma is tumor of post GCPC. In myeloma,
tumor cells are mainly localized in bone marrow
Bone marrow endothelial cells (BMECs) and stromal
cells (BMSCs) secrete a variety of chemokines such as
stromal-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and insulin-like growth
factor 1 (IGF-1) that serve as chemoattractants for MM
cells. Multiple myeloma cell binds to bone marrow cell,
which stimulates the production of various cytokines like
interleukin (IL)-6, Interferon gamma (IFN-γ), vascular
endothelial growth factor (VEGF), tumor necrosis factors
(TNFs), transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), and
receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL).1
Direct binding of MM cell to bone marrow cells and
induced cytokines in turn regulates various signaling
pathway like Ras/mitogen activated protein kinase
(MAPK), Janus kinase (JAK)/Signal transducers and
activators of transcription 3(STAT-3) pathway,
Phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (P13K)/AKT pathway and
protein kinase-C (PKC) (Figure-1). IL-6 is among the
most important proliferation and survival factors in
myeloma.23 It transmits messages intracellularly through
the signal transducing protein gp130, which can activate
two pathways: the JAK-STAT pathway24 and the Ras-
MAP kinase pathway.25 Through the former pathway, the
ant apoptotic proteins Mcl-124 and Bcl-XL26 are
upregulated; through the latter pathway, transcription
factors, such as Elk-1, AP-1and NF-IL-624 are
upregulated. Another pathway that is triggered by IL-6
via a protein called PK C-δ are PI3K/Akt and MAPK.
The overall effects of all these pathways are prevention of
apoptosis, enhancement of multiple myeloma
proliferation, drug resistance, and migration of MM cell
in the bone marrow milieu. Targeting these signaling
proteins may therefore be useful therapeutic strategies.27
Other cytokines like IL-1β, up regulates production of IL-
6, changes expression of cell adhesion molecules and has
been shown to have osteoclast activating factor (OAF)
activity. MM cells also secrete VEGF which may account
for bone marrow angiogenesis, it also triggers increased
growth and motility of MM cells in the bone marrow.28
Another potential angiogenic molecule in MM is
fibroblast growth factor (FGF) which interact with FGF
receptors (FGFRs) and it can directly trigger the
neovascularization process by stimulating the migration
and proliferation of human endothelial cells. Higher basic
FGF levels have been found in more advanced stages of
multiple myeloma.29 It is a potent angiogenic factor. IGF-
1 directly stimulates the growth of myeloma cell,
enhances the myeloma cell responsiveness to IL-6
through MAPK30 and also inhibiting the apoptosis by
increasing the expression of Bad.31
Multiple myeloma can cause wide range of nonspecific
symptoms due to its damaging effect on the bone, the
production of the abnormal paraproteins, and by
interruption of normal production of blood cells. These
signs and symptoms vary according to organ affected and
these have been presented below:
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 105
Figure 1: Pathogenesis of multiple myeloma.
Bone pain
Bone pain is the most common symptom in myeloma,
affecting nearly 70% of the patients and it usually
involves the back and ribs. Persistent localized pain in a
patient with myeloma usually signifies a pathologic
fracture. Myeloma bone disease is due to the
overexpression of RANKL by bone marrow stroma.
RANKL activates osteoclasts, which resorb bone. The
resultant bone lesions are lytic in nature which are best
seen in plain radiographs, which may show "punched-
out" resorptive lesions (including the "pepper pot"
appearance of the skull on radiography).1
Hypercalcemia occurs in 18 - 30% of patients. The
symptoms of hypercalcemia include nausea, vomiting,
tiredness, mental confusion, fatigue, constipation,
abdominal pain, and weight loss. Raised calcium levels
may impair kidney function.27
Renal failure
Renal failure occurs in nearly 25% of myeloma patients,
and hypercalcemia is the most common cause of renal
failure. Glomerular deposits of amyloid, hyperuricemia,
recurrent infections and frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) for pain control, use of
iodinated contrast dye for imaging, bisphosphonate use,
and occasional infiltration of the kidney by myeloma
cells all may contribute to renal dysfunction. It may also
be due to tubular damage from excretion of light chains,
also called Bence Jones proteins, which can manifest as
the Fanconi syndrome (type II renal tubular acidosis).1
Many patients with myeloma develop infections with
Gram-positive (e.g. Streptococcus pneumoniae,
Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenzae) and
Gram-negative (Pseudomonas aeruginosa)
microorganisms. The greatest risk period for the
occurrence of infection is in the initial few months after
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 106
the start of chemotherapy.10,32,33.The most common
infections are pneumonias and pyelonephritis. The
increased risk of infection is due to immune deficiency
resulting from diffuse hypogammaglobulinemia,
abnormalities in complement functions, and therapeutic
agents like dexamethasone.1
Hyperviscosity refers to an increase in the viscosity or
resistance to flow of the blood and is due to excessive
production of proteins by the malignant plasma cells,
specifically monoclonal (M) proteins that attach
themselves to platelets and interfere with platelet
function. Signs and symptoms of hyperviscosity are
bleeding, bruising, headache, fatigue, sleepiness,
neurologic symptoms, confusion, visual disturbances and
Anemia is the most common clinical feature of MM and
it is usually normocytic, normochromic and related to the
replacement of normal marrow by expanding tumor cells,
inhibition of hematopoiesis by factors made by the tumor
and also mild hemolysis. Patients may have
megaloblastic anemia.27 Granulocytopenia and
thrombocytopenia are very rare. Clotting abnormalities
may be seen due to the failure of antibody-coated
platelets to function properly or because of interaction of
the M component with clotting factors I, II, V, VII, or
Neurological symptoms
Neurologic symptoms occur in 5-15% of patients, and
there are many causes for it like hypercalcemia (causes
produce lethargy, weakness, depression, and confusion),
hyperviscosity (leads to headache, fatigue, visual
disturbances, and retinopathy), bony damage and
collapse, (leads to cord compression, radicular pain, and
loss of bowel and bladder control) and infiltration of
peripheral nerves by amyloid (can be a cause of carpal
tunnel syndrome and other sensorimotor mono- and
polyneuropathies). Sensory neuropathy is also a side
effect of thalidomide and bortezomib therapy. Spinal cord
compression is a medical emergency and requires
immediate treatment to relieve the pressure and prevent
permanent damage.1
The diagnosis of myeloma is established by the presence
of bone marrow plasmacytosis (>10%), serum and/or
urine M component and end organ damage. Bone marrow
plasma cell are CD138+ and monoclonal. Proliferation of
MM is measured by the plasma cell labeling index
(PCLI), β2 microglobulin or gene expression profiling
(GEP). GEP has been utilized to identify high risk
patients and to differentiate between normal plasma cells,
those in MGUS, MM and extramedullary
plasmacytomas.34,35 The M protein can be detected by
serum protein electrophoresis in 82% of patients and by
immunofixation in 93%.7 The serum M component will
be IgG in 53% of patients, IgA in 25%, and IgD in 1%.
Upto 20% of patients will have only light chains either
kappa/lambda (κ/λ) in serum and urine.1 Serum free light
chain (FLC) ratio κ/λ is useful in diagnosing and
monitoring the course of the disease and response to
therapy particularly in patients with light chain myeloma
who do not have detectable M protein on serum or urine
electrophoresis.36 FLC κ/λ ratio (reference range 0.26-
1.65) is used to distinguish polyclonal elevations seen
with renal dysfunction from monoclonal elevation.37
The International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) has
established a criteria ‘CRAB’ based on end organ damage
to distinguish asymptomatic myeloma from active
disease. These include C hypercalcemia, R renal
insufficiency, A anemia and B bone lesion.38
The most important differential diagnosis in patients with
myeloma involves their separation from individual with
MGUS, SMM and primary amyloidosis. Patient with
MGUS or SMM should be identified and not treated
unless symptoms develop or laboratory abnormalities
progress because they remain stable for many years.
Patients with MGUS have M protein <3g/dl, absence of
lytic bone lesions, anaemia, hypercalcemia and bone
marrow with <10% plasma cells. The patients with
MGUS go on to develop multiple myeloma. For Patients
with serum M protein <1.5g/dl, IgG subtype and normal
serum FLC κ/λ ratio the risk of conversion is low (5% at
20years). Patients with serum M protein >1.5g/dl, IgA
subtype and abnormal serum FLC ratio have a higher risk
for conversion to myeloma (58% at 20years), and they
should be followed up at 3-6 month interval. 39 SMM is
characterized by the presence of a serum M protein (IgG
or IgA≥ 3g/dl), ≥ 10% of atypical plasma cells in the
bone marrow and absence of target organ damage. The
probability of progression to MM is 10% per year for the
first 5years, 3% per year for next 5year and 1% for the
next 10years.40
Survival of patients with MM depends on disease stage.
Although median survival is approximately 3 years,7
some patients with MM can live longer than 10 years.41-43
Since 1975, the Durie-Salmon staging system has been
used to stratify patients with MM.44 but it has limitations,
especially in the categorization of bone lesions.45,46
Greipp et al47 have developed the new International
Staging System (ISS), which overcomes the limitations of
the Durie-Salmon staging and divides patients into 3
distinct stages solely on the basis of serum β2-
microglobulin and albumin levels. The ISS is the most
widely used method of assessing prognosis (Table-1).
Cytogenetic analysis of myeloma cells may be of
prognostic value, the deletion of chromosome 13,
translocations of t(4;14), t(14;16) t(14;20) confers poorer
prognosis. By contrast a favourable prognosis has been
observed in the presence of t(11;14), t(6;14) or
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 107
hyperdiploidy.17,48,49 Syndecan -1 (also known as CD138)
is found on the surface of almost all myeloma cells,
whether they are in the bone marrow or the blood. The
myeloma cell can use it to attach itself to the other cell.
Syndecan-1 can be shed into the serum by the action of
enzymes called proteases, means it accumulates in the
serum of myeloma patients. High level of syndecan -1 in
the serum correlates with the poor prognosis.22
Table 1: International Staging System (ISS) for
Multiple Myeloma.47
Stage 1
Stage II
Stage III
Patients with symptomatic and/or progressive myeloma
require therapeutic intervention. Therapy can
significantly prolong survival and improve the quality of
life of myeloma patients. Patients with inactive or SMM
should be closely monitored without instituting therapy,
as no survival benefit/ advantage has been demonstrated
by treating asymptomatic multiple myeloma.50,51A long
term plan for managing the disease should be formulated
before instituting therapy for symptomatic disease
(Figure 2). In general MM therapy includes symptomatic
supportive care & systemic therapy. Symptomatic
supportive care to prevent serious morbidity from the
complications of the disease which includes adequate
hydration, bisphosphonates, management of renal failure,
anemia and infection. Systemic therapy is to control the
progression of myeloma and is tailored to patients’ age,
comorbidities and preferences. Patients who are <65
years of age with no major co-morbid conditions are
usually eligible for high dose therapy and autologous
stem cell transplantation (HDT&ASCT) whereas patient
with >65 years of age with cardiac or renal disease are
not eligible for HDT & ASCT. Local treatments, such as
radiation therapy is often given to patient with MM in
order to control or kill the cancer cell in a certain area.
Treatment of myeloma in patients eligible for
Treatment of the young patient population, aged <65
years or older if in good performance status, should be
based on HDT/ASCT. After initial induction therapy,
stem cells are collected to perform HDT/ASCT.
Subsequent consolidation and maintenance strategies are
Induction therapy
The aim of induction therapy is maximal disease control
to collect tumour-free peripheral blood stem cells
(PBSCs). Typically patients are treated with
approximately four cycles of induction therapy before
stem cell harvest. This includes patients who are
transplantation candidates but who wish to reserve ASCT
as a delayed option for relapsed/refractory disease. Such
patients can resume induction therapy following stem cell
collection until a plateau phase is reached; reserving
ASCT for relapse.The sensitivity to the initial induction
therapy is measured by the M-protein which is the most
important predictor of complete response (CR). Earlier
vincristine, doxorubicin, dexamethasone (VAD) was used
as pre-transplant induction therapy. However, VAD has
drawbacks such as requiring an intravenous indwelling
catheter and neurotoxicity from vincristine. The other
induction regimen used was cyclophosphamide,
idarubicin and dexamethasone. With the use of these
conventional chemotherapy regimens the post-transplant
CR rate has been about 35% and the median overall
survival (OS) of six years in the best circumstances.52
Induction therapy with melphalan-based regimen should
be avoided as it can interfere with adequate stem cell
mobilization.53 The current availability of new drugs such
as thalidomide, lenalidomide and bortezomib have
provided the framework for improving the results of
At present, a combination of immunomodulators
(thalidomide or lenalidomide and dexamethasone) or
proteasome inhibitors (bortezomib and dexamethasone)
are used for induction. The overall response rate (ORR)
with these combinations are superior to four day
continuous infusion of vincristine, adriamycin and oral
dexamethasone (VAD).54 Thalidomide emerged as the
first important new drug treatment for myeloma
following recognition of its anti-angiogenic effects in the
1990s. Thalidomide is given orally and has
immunomodulatory anti-inflammatory and apoptotic
effects. Thalidomide/dexamethasone (Thal/Dex) was
approved by the US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) in 200655 for use as pre-transplant induction
regimen. The use of Thal/Dex in newly diagnosed
myeloma was initially based on three phase II clinical
trials.56,57 A case-control study of 200 patients
demonstrated that response rates with VAD were
significantly lower compared to Thal/Dex combination
(76% v/s 52%).58 Preliminary results from other
randomized trials confirm these findings.59,60 The Eastern
Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) in 2006 compared
Thal/Dex to dexamethasone alone in 207 patients.61 The
best response within four cycles of therapy was
significantly higher with Thal/Dex as compared to
dexamethasone alone (63% versus 41%). Dexamethasone
alone has also been used as induction therapy, with an
objective response rates of approximately 45%,61 which
is significantly lower as compared to newer induction
regimen and the early mortality rate (first 4 months of
therapy) associated with dexamethasone is over 10%,
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 108
reflecting the toxicity and ineffectiveness of this regimen.
Consequently, single-agent dexamethasone is no longer
recommended as initial therapy.62 Thalidomide combined
with dexamethasone is an effective pre-transplantation
induction regimen.63 The most frequent adverse effects
seen with thalidomide based regimens were somnolence,
constipation, neuropathy and fatigue. The less common
ones were edema, venous thrombosis, skin rash,
bradycardia, neutropenia and hypothyroidism.
Thalidomide is a teratogenic drug and is contraindicated
in pregnancy. In elderly patients the use of thalidomide
may cause disturbing constipation and neuropathy.64
Figure 2: Approach to the treatment of multiple myeloma.
Lenalidomide (Revlimid) is an oral thalidomide analogue
and acts by similar mechanisms, targeting both signalling
pathways within the malignant plasma cell and the bone
marrow microenvironment. Lenalidomide is frequently
effective even in patients whose myeloma is resistant to
thalidomide. A phase II trial conducted at the Mayo
Clinic demonstrated remarkably higher activity (91%
response rate) with the Len/Dex regimen in newly
diagnosed myeloma.65 ECOG tested Rev/Dex (40mg/day
for 4days per week) versus Rev/low-dose Dex (40 mg
dexamethasone once weekly)66 which showed that
toxicity rates are significantly higher with Rev/high-dose
Dex compared to Rev/low-dose Dex. The early mortality
rate (first 4 months) in the Rev/low-dose dexamethasone
was probably the lowest mortality (0.5%) reported in any
large phase III newly diagnosed myeloma trial therefore
making it one of the safest pre-transplant induction
regimens for myeloma. A combination of lenalidomide
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International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 109
and low dose dexamethasone (40 mg once a week) is the
standard schedule,67 and approved by FDA in June
2006.68 Lenalidomide is free of somnolence, but causes
mild constipation, minimal neuropathy, neutropenia,
thrombocytopenia and thromboembolism therefore,
requiring close monitoring. Effective contraception is
also required because of its teratogenic potential and it
require dose modification in patients with renal failure.64
There has been some concern about collection of
progenitor cells after lenalidomide therapy69 but this
appears to be minimized if a combination of
cyclophosphamide and a growth factor is used for
mobilization.70 More recently, a new chemokine receptor
inhibitor plerixafor has been studied for its effects on
stem cell mobilization. Plerixafor in combination with G-
CSF has been successfully used in patients failing
previous mobilization attempts. It overcomes the negative
effects of lenalidomide on stem cell mobilization.71-
74 These results led to the FDA and European Medicines
Agency (EMA) approval of plerixafor in combination
with G-CSF in 2008 and 2009, respectively, in patients
with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and MM.75 At present,
stem cell collection is usually done after 4 cycles of
lenalidomide and dexamethasone.76 Patients receiving
thalidomide or lenalidomide in combination with high-
dose steroids need routine thromboprophylaxis with
coumarin or low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH).
Aspirin can be used instead in patients receiving only low
doses of dexamethasone (40 mg, 4 days a month or
lower) or prednisone in combination with thalidomide,
provided no concomitant erythropoietic agents are used.62
Another regimen with high anti-myeloma activity is the
association of bortezomib (Velcade) and
dexamethasone.77,78 Bortezomib is a potent, reversible,
and selective inhibitor of the 26S proteasome targets the
myeloma cell and the bone marrow microenvironment
and acts by inhibiting the binding of myeloma cells to
stromal cells and decrease bone marrow triggered
angiogenesis.79 In newly diagnosed myeloma, bortezomib
has shown response rates of approximately 40% as a
single-agent,80 70-90% in combination with
dexamethasone (Vel/Dex),77,81 or with thalidomide and
dexamethasone (VTD). A combination of bortezomib
with dexamethasone, doxorubicin, lenalidomide or
thalidomide and melphalan has synergistic activity and
may overcome resistance to either agent.82-85 Harousseau
and colleagues reported superior response rates and long-
term outcome with Vel/Dex compared to VAD.86
The main drawback of bortezomib-based therapy is the
need for intravenous therapy. No adverse effect on stem
cell mobilization has been noted. No increased risk of
deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was observed with
bortezomib- based regimen (<5%). The most common
adverse events seen were sensory neuropathy (31%),
constipation (28%), myalgia (28%) and fatigue (25%)81
and higher frequency of herpes zoster infection.87 For
patients with neuropathy, the dose of bortezomib can be
reduced to 1 mg/m2 or even 0.7 mg/m2. However, the
benefit of bortezomib-based combinations is in elderly
patients with impaired renal functions (creatinine
clearance <60 ml/minute), and those with high risk
cytogenetics including the presence of t(4;14), t(14;16)
translocation or a 17p deletion.80
Thus, treatment with thalidomide, lenalidomide or
bortezomib in combination with dexamethasone is
associated with higher response rates than conventional
therapy. It is not clear which of these combinations is
better. The toxicity profile, cost analysis, quality of life
and long term follow up data will help to choose one
combination over the other.88 The real impact of
increased CR rates, when incorporating novel agents in
the pre-transplant induction regimens, on the long-term
post-ASCT outcome require more prolonged follow-up.
High dose chemotherapy (HDT) with Autologous
Transplantation (ASCT)
High-dose chemotherapy followed by ASCT is
considered the gold standard in the initial therapy of
younger patients with MM. The stem cell must be
collected using granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-
CSF), with or without cyclophosphamide before the
patient is exposed to conditioning therapy. The backbone
of conditioning therapy is melphalan, administered at
doses ranging from 100 to 200 mg/m2, dependent on age
and preexisting comorbidities.89 During the past decade, a
number of randomized and nonrandomized studies have
shown that treatment with high dose melphalan therapy
(HDT) (200 mg/m2) followed by ASCT is associated
with CR rates of 40%50% with improved OS and event-
free survival (EFS).90-92 ASCT prolongs survival in MM,
but its timing (early vs delayed) is controversial. Three
randomized trials showed that survival is similar whether
ASCT is done early (immediately after 4 cycles of
induction therapy) or delayed (at the time of relapse as
salvage therapy).93,94 In a randomized trial of the Spanish
Programa para el Estudio de la Terapéutica en Hemopatía
Maligna (PETHEMA) group, patients responding to
induction therapy had similar OS and PFS with either
ASCT or 8 additional courses of chemotherapy,92
suggesting that the greatest benefit from ASCT may be in
those with disease refractory to induction therapy.95,96
Overall, given the inconvenience, adverse effects of
prolonged chemotherapy, cost and other issues, early
ASCT is still favorable , especially for patients younger
than 65 years with adequate renal function.97 However,
with effective new agents to treat MM, some patients and
physicians may choose to delay the procedure. The need
for early ASCT is an important question for future
clinical trials.
A second ASCT is recommended by the NCCN
Guidelines within 6 months of the initial ASCT for those
patients who did not achieve at least a very good partial
remission (VGPR) after the first ASCT.89 Various studies
reported that two successive HDTs (Double or Tandem
ASCT) are more effective than single HDT in the subset
of patients who do not achieve a CRs or (VGPR) to the
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 110
first transplant.98,99 Kumar et al have recently reported the
result of a metaanalysis of six randomized trials where
the response rate was significantly better with double
transplant, whereas the mortality rate was higher with no
improvement in OS for patients treated with tandem
transplant.100 The two major shortcomings of ASCT are
that myeloma is not eradicated even with the large doses
of chemotherapy and that autologous peripheral stem
cells are contaminated by myeloma cells or their
precursors (Graft versus myeloma effect GVM), so this
procedure is not curative and most patients relapse.
Allogeneic stem cell transplantation remains the only
potential curative treatment for MM patients. The
advantage of allogeneic transplantation are the lack of
graft contamination with tumor cells and the presence of
GVM effect.101,102 However only 5-10% of patients are
candidate for conventional allogeneic transplantation due
to high transplant related mortality (TRM) from severe
graft versus host disease (GVHD), availability of HLA-
identical sibling donor in only one third of patients and
age of the patients. Because of its high transplant-related
mortality (TRM) the myeloablative allogeneic
transplantation with conventional conditioning has been
almost universally replaced by the so called dose reduced
intensity conditioning allergenic transplantation (Allo-
RIC/ Miniallogeneic transplantation). During the past
decade, a number of studies have explored the role of
Allo-RIC from an HLA-identical sibling donor after
debulking with ASCT but results are still
controversial.103-107 At this time, miniallogeneic
transplantation is investigational. It should be considered
only in the context of clinical trials in standard-risk MM.
Treatment of myeloma in patients not eligible for
In patients not eligible for ASCT the conventional
therapy has consisted of intermittent pulses of an
alkylating agent, melphalan and prednisone (MP)
administered for 4-7 days every 4-6 weeks. With these
regimens the ORR has been between 4050% and the CR
rate less than 5% with median survivals of about three
years. The addition of novel agents thalidomide,
bortezomib and lenalidomide with either MP or
dexamethasone have shown improved results. Various
trials comparing MPT (melphalan-prednisone-
thalidomide) with MP have showed that a combination of
MPT is superior to MP in elderly patients in terms of CR,
OS and EFS.108-111 MPT was associated with a higher risk
of neurological adverse events (10% vs 1%), infections
(10% vs 2%), cardiac toxicity (7% vs 4%) and
thromboembolism (12% vs 2%) as compared to MP
regimen.109 Antithrombotic prophylaxis with LMWH,
warfarin, or daily aspirin is recommended when using
MPT.112 A study compared the association of Thal/Dexa
with MP, Thal/Dexa produced a significantly higher ORR
(68% vs. 50%) but was more toxic in elderly patients thus
resulting in a significantly shorter OS (41.5 vs. 49.4
In a phase I/II trial, safety and efficacy of MP in
combination with lenalidomide (MPR) in newly
diagnosed elderly myeloma patients were studied.114 At
the maximum tolerated dose (lenalidomide 10 mg plus
melphalan 0.18 mg/kg), partial response (PR) was 85%.
One year EFS and OS were 92% and 100% respectively.
EFS of patients with deletion of chromosome 13 or
chromosomal translocation (4; 14) were not significantly
different from those who did not have shown such
abnormalities. By contrast, patients with high-levels of
serum β2-microglobulin experienced shorter EFS in
comparison with those with low-levels of β2-
microglobulin. Adverse events were mainly related to
hematological toxicities (neutropenia 66%) whereas non-
hematological side effects were less frequent and were
febrile neutropenia (8%), cutaneous rash (10%) and
thromboembolism (6%). Rate of thrombotic complication
was low with daily low dose aspirin prophylaxis.
An ECOG compared lenalidomide/dexamethasone at full
doses of dexamethasone versus
lenalidomide/dexamethasone at a dose of dexamethasone
of 40 mg weekly. The OS at one year was significantly
longer with lenalidomide/low-dose dexamethasone due to
a significantly lower toxicity. This difference was higher
in patients older than 65 years.67
The combination of MP with bortezomib (MPV) was
superior to MP in overall response rate (71% vs. 36%),
CR rate (30% vs. 4%), EFS (median, 24 vs. 16 months)
and OS (82% vs. 69% at two years).80 Importantly, MPV
was superior to MP in all prognostic subgroups, including
high-risk cytogenetics such as t(4;14), t(14;16) and 17p
deletion. Sensory neuropathy could be an important
limitation of bortezomib in these elderly patients.79,115
.Once the maximum response is achieved (after 6-9
cycles of MPT or MPR or 4-6 cycles of MPV patients
can be kept on observation.
It seems that the association of MP or dexamethasone
with a novel agent such as thalidomide, bortezomib or
lenalidomide will become the standard of care for elderly
patients with MM. The first choice will depend on the
patient age and clinical status as well as on the disease
Maintenance therapy
The concept of maintenance therapy may open new
avenues for new treatment approaches in myeloma.
Several trials have explored the benefits of maintenance
strategies after ASCT or after induction therapy in
transplant-ineligible patients in terms of response rate and
survival. Maintenance therapy aims to prolong remission
in long-term tumor control and to reduce the risk of
relapse.116 Maintenance therapy with interferon alfa-2 is
of limited value and is seldom used.117 A study by
Berenson et al suggests that prednisone may be useful for
maintenance therapy. With 50 mg vs 10 mg of prednisone
taken orally every other day, PFS (14 vs 5 months) and
overall survival (37 vs 26 months) were significantly
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 111
longer. But the side-effects of long term steroid therapy
preclude its routine use. 118 The incorporation of new
drugs as maintenance therapy appears to produce better
results. The results of 3 randomized studies using
thalidomide showed improved EFS.119-121 The OS was
better in two studies119,120 but neuropathy (7-27%) led to
discontinuation of thalidomide in a proportion of patients.
Lenalidomide may overcome this problem due to better
tolerability.122 Compared to placebo, lenalidomide
maintenance significantly delays the time to progression
(TTP). Specifically, McCarthy and colleagues123 showed
an estimated median TTP of 42.3 months for the
lenalidomide arm versus a TTP of 21.8 months for the
placebo arm at 17.5 months from ASCT. Similarly, Attal
and associates124 observed a median PFS from diagnosis
of 52 versus 34 months in lenalidomide versus placebo-
maintained patients. Advantages in terms of PFS by
lenalidomide maintenance have also been demonstrated
by Palumbo and colleagues125 in the nontransplant
setting. Bortezomib also showed promising results as a
maintenance therapy, suggesting that bortezomib
maintenance may favorably impact time to recurrence.126
Additional studies are needed to determine the role of
routine maintenance in myeloma, especially the use of
lenalidomide, which has a better safety profile than
thalidomide for long-term maintenance.
Figure 3: Treatment of relapsed multiple myeloma.
Treatment of patients with relapsed /refractory disease
Multiple myeloma relapses eventually in almost all
patients and the treatment of patients with
relapsed/refractory disease constitutes a real challenge.
Treatment choices depend on previous therapies, duration
of response and toxicities, age at the time of relapse, type
of relapse (aggressive/indolent ) and presence of high-
risk cytogenetic features.127 Thalidomide-dexamethasone
(Thal/dexa), lenalidomide-dexamethasone (Len/dexa) and
bortezomib-dexamethasone (Velc/Dexa) based
combinations can be used for patients who relapse after
MP/VAD chemotherapy (Figure 3).128,129 If relapse
occurs more than 6 months after therapy ended, the initial
chemotherapy regimen should be reinstituted. If relapse
occurs after a shorter period of time from induction,
treatment options include HDT/ASCT (Patients for whom
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International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 112
stem cells were cryopreserved early in the disease) or
Allo-RIC (young patients with preferably HLA-matched
donors) or switch to a new regimen.130-133
Strategies approved in the relapsed setting include
bortezomib alone or in combination with pegylated
liposomal doxorubicin, and lenalidomide in combination
with dexamethasone.129,134 A combination of bortezomib
with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) is superior
to bortezomib alone in VGPR plus CR (27 vs. 19%), TTP
(median, 9.3 vs. 6.5 months) and OS at 15 months (76%
vs. 65%).134 Similarly the combination of lenalidomide
plus dexamethasone was superior to dexamethasone
alone in ORR (60% vs. 22%), CR rate (15% vs. 2%),
median time to progression (TTP) (median 11 vs. 5
months) and OS (median, 29.6 vs. 20 months).135,136
Lenalidomide is active in thalidomide or bortezomib-
pretreated patients. Bortezomib alone or in combination
with dexamethasone is active in thalidomide /
lenalidomide pretreated patients. Bortezomib
administered as a single agent induces an ORR and a CR
rate up to 43% and 9% respectively.78,137
Ongoing studies are evaluating double, triple, and
quadruple combinations, as well as additional targeted
novel agents. Thalidomide has been combined with a
variety of agents, such as dexamethasone, cisplatin,
cyclophosphamide, and etoposide (DT-PACE).138 Safety
and efficacy of lenalidomide plus pegylated liposomal
doxorubicin or cyclophosphamide and dexamethasone
have been additionally evaluated.139,140 Among the novel
agents currently tested in myeloma, are the new
immunomodulatory drug pomalidomide and proteasome
inhibitorv carfilzomib are the most promising. Notably,
activity of pomalidomide was also observed in patients
refractory to thalidomide, lenalidomide, or
bortezomib.141,142 In the relapsed/refractory setting, an
overall response of 30% was achieved by drug
pomalidomide, alone or in combination with
dexamethasone. The dose-limiting adverse effect was
myelosuppression.143,144 Carfilzomib in contrast to
bortezomib, has an irreversible mechanism of
action.145,146 Although high response rates were
demonstrated in patients previously treated with
lenalidomide, bortezomib, and HDT/ASCT, even higher
response rates were observed in bortezomib-naïve
patients.147 Reported toxicity was mainly hematologic A
larger randomized phase III trial is planned to assess the
combination of carfilzomib plus lenalidomide plus
dexamethasone in the setting of relapsed disease.
Supportive care is as important as the treatment of
primary tumor. Supportive therapies in MM aim to
prevent and treat bone disease and its complications,
thromboembolic events, renal impairment,
hyperviscosity, infections, and anemia (Table 2). It is
symptomatic and as discussed below:
Table 2: Supportive therapies in Multiple Myeloma.
Bone disease
Kyphoplasty, Vertebroplasty.
Hydration and Bisphosphonates,
eventually calcitonin.
Anticoagulation strategies in
case of thalidomide or
lenalidomide-based regimens.
Renal failure
Avoid NSAIDs and nephrotoxic
Bone Lesion
Patients with symptomatic bone disease or asymptomatic
patients whose bone imaging suggests decreased bone
density benefit from therapy with
bisphosphonates.148 Indeed, monthly infusions with
zoledronate or pamidronate reduce skeletal complications
(hypercalcemia, fractures, and pain). Zoledronic acid may
be superior to pamidronate.149,150 Treatment can be
continued (once in 6 months) in patients with persistent
bone disease or osteoporosis and should be resumed in
case of disease progression or relapse. Patients with
persistent localized bone pain can get benefit from
vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty.151
The various causes of anaemia in myeloma are
inadequate levels of erythropoietin (present in up to
50%), iron, folate and vitamin B12 deficiency.152
Following response to antimyeloma therapy, anaemia
responds in most patients. Randomized placebo-
controlled trials have shown that symptomatic anemia
often is improved by administration of
erythropoietin.153,154 Erythropoietin (40,000 U
subcutaneously, weekly) or darbepoetin (200 μg
subcutaneously every 2 weeks) is beneficial. Blood
transfusions are indicated for patients with symptomatic
anemia who do not benefit from other therapies.
Prophylaxis against Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
should be considered in all patients receiving high-dose
corticosteroidal therapy. A small randomized placebo-
controlled trial of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole in 57
patients with newly diagnosed MM showed benefit with
routine prophylaxis administered with the first 2 cycles of
chemotherapy.155 Alternative agents such as
ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, or cephalosporins for P
carinii pneumonia prophylaxis should be considered.
Intravenous gamma globulin given every 3 to 4 weeks is
indicated if patients have recurrent serious infections
associated with severe hypogammaglobulinemia.
Intravenous immunoglobulin may be considered as an
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International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 113
adjuvant in patients with serious infections.33,107,156
Nephrotoxic antibiotics, like aminoglycosides should be
avoided in patients with compromised renal functions.10,64
Renal failure
The main causes of renal failure in MM are cast
nephropathy (80%), light chain deposition (5%-6%) and
amyloidosis (<10%). Other factors like dehydration,
hypercalcaemia, hyperuricaemia, infections and
nephrotoxic drugs (e.g. aminoglycosides and NSAIDs)
are reversible and should be corrected4 and avoided.157,158
Maintenance of a high urinary output (3 L/d) is important
in preventing renal failure in those with high levels of
monoclonal light chains in the urine. Dexamethasone or
bortezomib alone, or bortezomib with dexamethasone
with/ without doxorubicin, or thalidomide with
dexamethasone or VAD are preferred in patients with
renal failure. Plasmapheresis should be considered in
such patients in an attempt to prevent irreversible renal
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Patients undergoing thalidomide- and lenalidomide-based
therapies are at high risk for thromboembolic events and
benefit from the regular use of anticoagulants. Based on
risk-stratification analysis, aspirin, low-molecular-weight
heparin, or warfarin may be administered. The duration
of prophylaxis is 4-6 months.64,160
Hyperviscosity Syndrome
Infrequently, patients with MM develop hyperviscosity
syndrome. Plasmapheresis promptly relieves the
symptoms and should be performed if the patient has
signs or symptoms of hyperviscosity.161
Despite the development of more effective therapies for
multiple myeloma (MM) over the past decade, nearly all
patients will eventually experience progressive disease or
disease relapse and require further therapy. Designing the
next generation of therapies for relapsed and refractory
disease will depend on understanding the complex
molecular pathogenesis of MM and mechanisms of
resistance. Direct interaction between MM cells and bone
marrow cells activates pleiotropic signaling pathways that
mediate growth, survival, and migration of MM cells as
well as resistance to chemotherapy. The bone marrow
also secretes growth factors and cytokines that maintain
MM cells and inhibit apoptosis. Therefore, successful
therapeutic strategies must target not only the MM
plasma cell but also the bone microenvironment. The
benefit of immunomodulatory drugs such as thalidomide
and lenalidomide and the proteasome inhibitor
bortezomib in relapsed/refractory MM is related to their
ability to target both. Novel agents and combination
strategies are building on the success of these agents and
targeting synergistic pathways. Among that, the most
promising are the immunomodulatory drug
pomalidomide, which can be active even in patients
refractory to lenalidomide, the proteasome inhibitor
carfilzomib, active in patients resistant to bortezomib and
with an acceptable safety profile, and the histone
deacetylase inhibitors (HDAC), particularly vorinostat
(SAHA) and panobinostrat (LBH 589).162,163 Carfilzomib
is approved by FDA on July 2012164 for the treatment of
patients with MM who have received at least two prior
therapies, including bortezomib and an
immunomodulatory agent and have demonstrated disease
progression on or within 60 days of the completion of the
last therapy. Pomalidomide has shown promise in phase
II trials and a new drug application for it has been
submitted to the FDA.165
Histone deacetylase inhibitors, particularly vorinostat and
panobinostrat act by increasing the productions of
proteins that slow cell division and cause cell death. They
have shown limited efficacy when used alone.162,163 A
promising approach is the addition of a these agent as a
third drug to a well-established regimen to obtain an
additive or a synergistic effect in the so-called triple
rescue regimens. A study reported, addition of
panobinostrat, to either bortezomib/dexamethasone
(PBD) or lenalidomide /dexamethasone (PLD) resulted in
a synergistic effect in all: MM cell lines, fresh myeloma
cells and plasmacytoma murine models.166 Another study
also showed that PBD may be effective in relapsed and
velcade refractory patients.167 The combination of
panobinostat, Velcade, and dexamethasone is currently
being tested in a Phase 3 clinical trial, Panobinostat is
also being studied in combination with other common
anti-myeloma drugs, including Revlimid, carfilzomib and
pomalidomide.167 Vorinostat, another HDAC inhibitor
being studied for the treatment of myeloma, was recently
shown to have a small impact on PFS when used in
combination with Velcade in relapsed/refractory
myeloma patients.167
Bone marrow endothelial cells secrete CXCL12, also
known as stromal derived factor 1-alpha (SDF-1α), which
is a ligand of CXCR4 and plays a pivotal role in
myeloma bone marrow homing. Thus, the
CXCL12/CXCR4 stimulates motility of myeloma cell,
increases the expansion and migration of plasma cells in
vivo, also stimulates bone marrow angiogenesis resulting
in myeloma progression. In fact, serum levels of
CXCL12 correlate nicely with bone marrow
angiogenesis,168 so administration of a CXCL12
antagonist will decrease angiogenesis. Martin et al168
reported that prolonged exposure to hypoxia and
hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF) strongly up-
regulated CXCL12 expression in myeloma plasma cells.
It has been suggested that targeting HIF might be an
interesting strategy in the attempt to inhibit angiogenesis
and disease progression in MM.
Multiple myeloma represents the malignancy with the
richest cancer/ testis antigen CTAs. CTAs are a
promising class of tumor antigens and are regulated by
Gupta M et al. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;2(2):103-121
International Journal of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology | March-April 2013 | Vol 2 | Issue 2 Page 114
epigenetic mechanisms such as promoter methylation and
histone acetylation.169 Several CTAs have been detected
in many MM cell lines and primary tumor samples from
patients with MM and MAGE-C1/C17 was the most
frequently expressed CTA in MM.170 Various
studies describe the role of MAGE-C1/C17 in the
proliferation, disease progression, cell adhesion,
chemosensitivity and apoptosis.171,172 So CTAs might
constitute important targets for novel anti-myeloma
specific therapies. Other molecules, monoclonal
antibodies, particularly anti-IL-6 antibodies,173 AE491174
shark cartilage compound, Arsenic trioxide175 and
antibiotic Biaxin174 is being evaluated in clinical trials at
multiple centers for treatment of MM and are under
various phases of clinical trial and once the results are
confirmed, then these are likely to be incorporated in the
first line treatment of myeloma.
From all the above it becomes evident that considerable
progress has been made in the management of MM over
the past 2 decades. From being incurable, the disease is
now a chronic illness. The availability of newer drugs
thalidomide, lenalidomide and bortezomib has provided
an opportunity to achieve higher response rates. Initial
induction therapy with these newer drugs followed by
consolidation with intensive chemotherapy and ASCT in
younger patients without major co-morbid condition, and
combination of newer drugs with melphalan and
prednisolone or dexamethasone in the elderly patients are
the preferred treatment in MM patients. We can see an
improved long-term outcome for patients with MM
through several other actions /interventions like (i) the
possible use of a tailored front-line therapy in an
individual patient like for patients with renal failure -
bortezomib, thalidomide and/or doxorubicin combination
could be an option, for patients with pre-existing
peripheral neuropathy - lenalidomide and dexamethasone
is preferred, for patients at high risk of DVT bortezomib-
based regimens can be used safely94, (ii) selecting the
best rescue regimens after relapse and exploiting all the
effective drugs preferably in a sequential use according to
previous drug exposure, depth and duration of response
and previous toxicity, (iii) a careful evaluation of
response, serological relapse and clinical progression
ensuring a timely, appropriate administration of therapy,
(iv) adequate prophylaxis and/or management of
toxicities, in particular peripheral neuropathy and deep
vein thrombosis and (v) supportive care. We are certain
that the application of all the above will show real
enhanced survival perspectives for both young and
elderly patients with multiple myeloma. For the next
decade we can anticipate the consolidation of the novel
treatment approaches as well as the incorporation of a
new generation of drugs with more specific molecular
targets in myeloma treatment programs.
Funding: No funding sources
Competing interests: None declared
Ethical approval: Not required
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Cite this article as: Gupta M, Pal RAGK, Tikoo D.
Multiple myeloma: the disease and its treatment. Int J
Basic Clin Pharmacol 2013;2:103-21.
... Multiple myeloma (MM) refers to a malignant B-lymphocyte disorder characterized by proliferation of a single clone of plasma cells, and production of a monoclonal protein (M-protein). 1,2 Also known as plasma cell myeloma, plasmacytic myeloma, myelomatosis, or Kahler's disease, the term MM can be misleading since plasma cells are of lymphoid lineage and not myeloid; rather, the name reflects involvement of the myelum or bone marrow, where plasma cells reside. 1,2 Malignant transformation of plasma cells typically occurs in multiple bone sites, and may form masses capable of advancing locally or involving distant organs through lymphatic or hematogenous spread. ...
... 1,2 Also known as plasma cell myeloma, plasmacytic myeloma, myelomatosis, or Kahler's disease, the term MM can be misleading since plasma cells are of lymphoid lineage and not myeloid; rather, the name reflects involvement of the myelum or bone marrow, where plasma cells reside. 1,2 Malignant transformation of plasma cells typically occurs in multiple bone sites, and may form masses capable of advancing locally or involving distant organs through lymphatic or hematogenous spread. 3 The cause of MM remains uncertain, 4 and it continues to be incurable, with almost all patients eventually developing treatment-resistant disease. ...
... 10 Median survival with conventional treatment is about four years, but median survival can be extended to five to seven years with high-dose treatment and autologous stem-cell transplantation. 2,10 In many patients, MM is preceded by a pre-malignant stage called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). 7 MGUS has a 1% annual risk of progression to MM, with free light chain (FLC) ratio, M-protein concentration, and depressed levels of non-affected immunoglobulins having been identified as risk factors for progression. ...
... Its incidence increases with age and can affect multiple body systems including bone, immune and neurological systems. 3 Despite rapid advances in myeloma treatment which use stem cell transplants and immunomodulatory and cytotoxic properties of natural killer cells, at present, there is no effective cure for patients requiring long-term treatment. 1 Aspergillosis is a rare fungal infection caused by Aspergillus, a species of mould that is found all over the world. ...
... 8 Furthermore, MM can cause osteolytic lesions in bone and can be seen in the spine, lumbar region and jaw. 3 Any radiolucency found in bone in special tests must be investigated to ensure there is no malignant cause. 4 This patient had multiple comorbidities including pulmonary aspergillosis, which resulted in chronic symptoms of fatigue and chest infections. ...
Full-text available
This case study discusses the dental management of a patient with a history of multiple myeloma and pulmonary aspergillosis, whom was referred to a hospital-based dental service for urgent dental review. The patient had received a dental assessment in primary care prior to commencement of chemotherapy and had four teeth extracted without complications. However, following the commencement of chemotherapy, he presented with a significant infection associated with two of his wisdom teeth resulting in extraction. Despite atraumatic extraction, the upper right wisdom tooth socket developed an oroantral fistula. A multidisciplinary team approach was required to enable effective patient management in this complex patient regarding myeloma, aspergillosis and the medications used including bisphosphonates and chemotherapy. It highlights the higher risk of oral complications that can arise in myelosuppressed patients and emphasises the need to identify potential sources of dental infection prior to the commencement of chemotherapy.
... Multiple myeloma (MM) is a relatively rare hematological malignancy that affects *1–9 in 100,000 individuals each year worldwide with a higher incidence in North America (7.1 in 100,000 per year) [1]. Although considerably prevalent in developed Western countries, prevalence statistics are substantially lower in developing countries, including Asian countries [2]. ...
... Although this conventional approach offers adequate disease control, treatment benefit durability is limited and disease progression is almost inevitable. Over the last decade, the therapeutic approach for MM has evolved and the treatment paradigm has shifted to novel drugs that target different mechanistic pathways, such as immunomodulatory drugs (thalidomide and lenalidomide) and proteasome inhibitors (e.g., bortezomib) [1,789. These new agents have been extensively studied in the relapsed or refractory setting, demonstrating higher response rate (up to 50%) than the conventional therapies101112. ...
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Introduction: Bortezomib, a novel proteasome inhibitor, is approved for the treatment of relapsed multiple myeloma (MM). Efficacy and safety of bortezomib is well known; however, it was necessary to validate the data in patients with different ethnic backgrounds. The efficacy and safety of bortezomib was assessed in patients from China with relapsed/refractory MM in a real-world scenario. Methods: This prospective, non-interventional, observational study enrolled both male and female Chinese patients, aged ≥18 years and diagnosed with relapsed or refractory MM. Administration of intravenous bortezomib at 1.3 mg/m2 was recommended twice a week for 2 weeks (days 1, 4, 8 and 11), followed by a 10-day rest period (maximum of 8 cycles) and a follow-up every 12 weeks for 3 years. Efficacy assessments included best response, objective response rate (ORR), time to response, duration of response, and overall survival. Safety was also assessed. Results: A total of 517 patients were enrolled with a median age of 58.7 years. Patients predominantly had immunoglobulin G type (46.2%) and stage III (47.8%) myeloma. Overall, 202 (42.3%) patients had partial response as best response, ORR was 88.9% and the proportion of patients exhibiting complete response was 24.7%. The median time to response observed was 27 (21-40) days. Median time to progression was 415 days and median overall survival was 475 days. Thrombocytopenia (14.4%) was the most common adverse event. Conclusion: Bortezomib demonstrated clinical response in majority of patients and was well tolerated in this observational study in Chinese patients with relapsed/refractory MM.
... [6] MM is also known as Kahler's disease (after Otto Kahler). [7] MM is the most common primary malignancy of bone. [8] MM is more common in males, with a male: female ratio of 3:2. ...
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Multiple myeloma (MM) is a relatively rare malignant hematological disease, which is characterized by a monoclonal malignant proliferation of plasma cells that causes osteolytic lesions. Maxillofacial presentations in patients with MM are not uncommon, but because the symptoms are varied, it is very difficult to diagnose MM in this region especially in patients with initial oral involvement. Furthermore, maxillofacial manifestations as an initial sign or symptom are scarce. We report a case of a 40-year-old male patient who presented with an unhealed socket in lower left back tooth region for the past 2 months. The panoramic radiograph revealed a multilocular radiolucency. Histopathological examination of the biopsy specimen revealed a malignant hematopoietic neoplasm formed by plasmacytoid cells. Radiographic survey and immunoreactivity for CD 138 and lambda chain antibody further confirmed the diagnosis of MM. © 2018 Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow.
... Carfilzomib may provide an alternative option for patients with treatment-related or preexisting peripheral neuropathy. 42 Compared to bortezomib, preclinical data have shown that carfilzomib is associated with reduced neuronal degradation and reduced effects at off-target sites. 31 The rate of peripheral neuropathy seen in Phase II studies was 12.4%, considerably lower than rates reported in patients treated with bortezomib. ...
The pharmacology, clinical efficacy, safety, cost, dosage and administration, and place in therapy of carfilzomib for the treatment of multiple myeloma (MM) are reviewed. Proteasome inhibition in MM has become a cornerstone in treatment regimens. Carfilzomib, a second-generation proteasome inhibitor, has demonstrated efficacy in patients with relapsed or refractory disease who have received at least two prior therapies including bortezomib and an immunomodulatory agent. Carfilzomib is an irreversible inhibitor and binds to a different site than bortezomib on the proteasome. A Phase II study evaluated 266 heavily pretreated patients with relapsed or refractory MM who had received at least two prior therapies, including bortezomib and either thalidomide or lenalidomide. The overall response rate was 23.7%, with a median duration of response of 7.8 months. The median overall survival time was 15.6 months. Carfilzomib has a similar adverse-effect profile to bortezomib, including anemia, thrombocytopenia, fatigue, dyspnea, and nausea; however, it does not result in the development or worsening of peripheral neuropathy. Carfilzomib is infused intravenously over 2-10 minutes for 2 consecutive days every week for three out of four weeks, with a 12-day rest period. Dosing is based on the patient's actual body surface area. Carfilzomib is available in 60-mg vials for single infusion. The total cost for a year of therapy is approximately $155,852. Carfilzomib, a second-generation proteasome inhibitor that irreversibly inhibits the 26S proteasome, has shown efficacy in clinical studies of patients with relapsed or refractory MM, though the drug's role in the management of MM is not yet clear. Copyright © 2015 by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Multiple myeloma (MM) is one of the most common hematological malignancies and characterized by the clonal accumulation of malignant plasma cells. Significant progress has been made in MM treatment recently, while MM still remains incurable. Our previous studies showed that the recombined human programmed cell death 5 (rhPDCD5) can promote MM apoptosis induced by dexamethasone (Dex). Here, we expanded the findings by showing that the rhPDCD5 alone could not induce an obvious growth inhibition of U266 cells (a MM cell line). Of note, with the combination of dexamethasone (Dex), the growth of MM cells was significantly inhibited and accompanied with the cell cycle arrest in G0/G1. For mechanism study, we found that the combination treatment of rhPDCD5 plus Dex downregulated the mRNA and protein expressions of Wnt effectors including β-catenin, β-catenin (Ser675), TCF4, survivin and c-Myc when compared to Dex only. Moreover, the activation of WNT pathway induced by LiCl can also be inhibited by this combination treatment. Taken together, our study demonstrated that the combination of rhPDCD5 and Dex can suppress the proliferation of multiple myeloma cells partially via inhibiting the WNT signaling pathway.
Recent innovations in treatment of multiple myeloma include autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) along with high dose chemotherapy (HDC). We undertook this study to estimate incremental cost per quality adjusted life year gained (QALY) with use of ASCT along with HDC as compared to conventional chemotherapy (CC) alone in treatment of multiple myeloma. A combination of decision tree and markov model was used to undertake the analysis. Incremental costs and effects of ASCT were compared against the baseline scenario of CC (based on Melphalan and Prednisolone regimen) in the patients of multiple myeloma. A lifetime study horizon was used and future costs and consequences were discounted at 5%. Consequences were valued in terms of QALYs. Incremental cost per QALY gained using ASCT as against CC for treatment of multiple myeloma was estimated using both a health system and societal perspective. The cost of providing ASCT (with HDC) for multiple myeloma patients was INR 500,631, while the cost of CC alone was INR 159,775. In the long run, cost per patient per year for ASCT and CC arms was estimated to be INR 119,740 and INR 111,565 respectively. The number of QALYs lived per patient in case of ASCT and HDC alone were found to be 4.1 and 3.5 years respectively. From a societal perspective, ASCT was found to incur an incremental cost of INR 334,433 per QALY gained. If the ASCT is initiated early to patients, the incremental cost for ASCT was found to be INR 180,434 per QALY gained. With current mix of patients, stem cell treatment for multiple myeloma is not cost effective at a threshold of GDP per capita. It becomes marginally cost-effective at 3-times the GDP per capita threshold. However, accounting for the model uncertainties, the probability of ASCT to be cost effective is 59%. Cost effectiveness of ASCT can be improved with early detection and initiation of treatment.
The maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of quisinostat + bortezomib + dexamethasone in patients with relapsed multiple myeloma was evaluated in a phase-1b, open-label, multicenter, '3 + 3' dose-escalation study. Patients received escalating doses of oral quisinostat (6 mg [n = 3], 8 mg [n = 3], 10 mg [n = 6], and 12 mg [n = 6] on days 1, 3, and 5/week) plus subcutaneous bortezomib (1.3 mg/m(2)) and oral dexamethasone (20 mg) in cycles of 21 (cycles 1-8) or 35 d (cycles 9-11) until MTD was determined. No dose-limiting toxicities were reported in 6/8 mg groups except ventricular fibrillation (Grade 4 cardiac arrest, n = 1 [10 mg] cycle 6) and clinically significant cardiac toxicities (Grade 3 QTc prolongation, Grade 3 atrial fibrillation, n = 2 [12 mg]). Thrombocytopenia (n = 11), asthenia (n = 10), and diarrhea (n = 12) were most common adverse events. Overall, 88.2% patients achieved treatment response, median duration of response, and median progression-free survival were 9.4 and 8.2 months, respectively. The MTD of quisinostat was established as 10 mg thrice weekly oral dose with bortezomib + dexamethasone.
Multiple myeloma is a neoplastic disease of plasma cells accounting for 13 % of haematological malignancies and 2 % of all malignancies worldwide. Ascites may develop very rarely during the course of disease in multiple myeloma. We report the case of a 78 years old male with IgG lambda multiple myeloma who initially presented with plasmacytic ascites. An exhaustive review of world literature reveals 65 cases of ascites to have been reported in myeloma over a span of 62 years (1952 till date), usually developing in the course of treatment. This is the 7th case of plasmacytic ascites to have been diagnosed at initial presentation. We review the clinical features, diagnosis, prognostic significance and treatment of such cases.
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Carfilzomib is a next-generation, selective proteasome inhibitor being evaluated for the treatment of relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma. In this open-label, single-arm phase 2 study (PX-171-003-A1), patients received single-agent carfilzomib 20 mg/m(2) intravenously twice weekly for 3 of 4 weeks in cycle 1, then 27 mg/m(2) for ≤ 12 cycles. The primary endpoint was overall response rate (≥ partial response). Secondary endpoints included clinical benefit response rate (≥ minimal response), duration of response, progression-free survival, overall survival, and safety. A total of 266 patients were evaluable for safety, 257 for efficacy; 95% were refractory to their last therapy; 80% were refractory or intolerant to both bortezomib and lenalidomide. Patients had median of 5 prior lines of therapy, including bortezomib, lenalidomide, and thalidomide. Overall response rate was 23.7% with median duration of response of 7.8 months. Median overall survival was 15.6 months. Adverse events (AEs) were manageable without cumulative toxicities. Common AEs were fatigue (49%), anemia (46%), nausea (45%), and thrombocytopenia (39%). Thirty-three patients (12.4%) experienced peripheral neuropathy, primarily grades 1 or 2. Thirty-three patients (12.4%) withdrew because of an AE. Durable responses and an acceptable tolerability profile in this heavily pretreated population demonstrate the potential of carfilzomib to offer meaningful clinical benefit. This trial was registered at as #NCT00511238.
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Cancer/Testis Antigens (CTAs) are a promising class of tumor antigens that have a limited expression in somatic tissues (testis, ovary, fetal, and placental cells). Aberrant expression of CTAs in cancer cells may lead to abnormal chromosome segregation and aneuploidy. CTAs are regulated by epigenetic mechanisms (DNA methylation and acetylation of histones) and are attractive targets for immunotherapy in cancer because the gonads are immune privileged organs and anti-CTA immune response can be tumor-specific. Multiple myeloma (MM) is an incurable hematological malignancy, and several CTAs have been detected in many MM cell lines and patients. Among CTAs expressed in MM we must highlight the MAGE-C1/CT7 located on the X chromosome and expressed specificity in the malignant plasma cells. MAGE-C1/CT7 seems to be related to disease progression and functional studies suggests that this CTA might play a role in cell cycle and mainly in survival of malignant plasma cells, protecting myeloma cells against spontaneous as well as drug-induced apoptosis.
Background The survival of patients with multiple myeloma (MM) has improved significantly over the past two decades with the introduction of novel treatment agents. However, MM is still largely considered an incurable malignancy with a relapsing-remitting course. A follow-up of at least 10 years from active disease is required to determine whether a plateau in progression-free survival has been attained. Prior literature has used 10 years as a cutoff for "long-term survivorship". In this study, we have assessed the biological disease characteristics and outcomes of long-term survivors with MM (≥10 years from active disease). Methods All patients with active MM evaluated at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester between January 1, 1999 and July 1, 2008 were included in the study after approval of the Institutional Review Board. Patients with smoldering multiple myeloma were excluded. The overall survival (OS) was calculated from the time of symptomatic disease requiring treatment. Patients were then divided into two cohorts: (1) long-term survivors, which included patients who had an overall survival of at least 10 years; and (2) short-term survivors, which included patients who had an overall survival of less than 5 years from the diagnosis of active MM. The baseline characteristics between these two groups were compared using Wilcoxon, chi-square, and Fisher's exact test as applicable. All time-to-event analyses were performed using the Kaplan-Meier method and the survival curves were compared using Log-Rank test. Results During the time frame of the study, 2,125 patients were identified who fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for active MM. The median follow-up for the entire cohort was 12.6 years (95% CI: 12.5-13.4).The median OS for the entire cohort was 4.4 years (95% CI: 4.2-4.7 years). Three-hundred and ninety nine (18.7%) patients survived at least 10 years whereas 872 patients (41%) survived less than 5 years from the date of initial diagnosis. The median OS was 14.1 years for the long-term survivors (95% CI: 13.9-14.6 years) and 2.1 years for the short-term survivors (95% CI: 1.8-2.2 years). The clinical features at diagnosis comparing long-term survivors and short-term survivors are shown in Table 1. Among long-term survivors (n=399), based on the available data regarding remission and ongoing treatment status, 331 patients were categorized into 6 cohorts (Table 2). The MM specific survival data of these 6 cohorts is depicted in Table 2.Figure 1 shows survival outcomes from the 10-year landmark. Of the 6 cohorts, 38 patients in Cohort 1 and 19 patients in Cohort 2 (total 57; 17% of long term survivors, ~3% of the entire cohort ) have been off therapy for at least 5 years and remain in remission, representing a distinct group of patients with 100% 15-year survival. Conclusion In our large database with prolonged follow-up, long-term survivors appear to have distinct baseline characteristics, but also constitute a heterogenous group of patients with disparate outcomes. A small subset (17% of long-term survivors) was identified that may represent patients closest to being considered as 'operationally cured'. Disclosures Lacy: Celgene: Research Funding. Dispenzieri:Celgene, Takeda, Prothena, Jannsen, Pfizer, Alnylam, GSK: Research Funding. Gertz:Teva: Consultancy; spectrum: Consultancy, Honoraria; Medscape: Consultancy; Physicians Education Resource: Consultancy; Amgen: Consultancy; Apellis: Consultancy; Alnylam: Honoraria; Abbvie: Consultancy; janssen: Consultancy; celgene: Consultancy; Prothena: Honoraria; annexon: Consultancy; Ionis: Honoraria; Research to Practice: Consultancy. Dingli:Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.: Other: Participates in the International PNH Registry (for Mayo Clinic, Rochester) for Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Millennium Takeda: Research Funding; Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.: Other: Participates in the International PNH Registry (for Mayo Clinic, Rochester) for Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Millennium Takeda: Research Funding. Kumar:KITE: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Oncopeptides: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Merck: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Celgene: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; AbbVie: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Janssen: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Roche: Research Funding; KITE: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Janssen: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Celgene: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Takeda: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; AbbVie: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding. Kapoor:Celgene: Research Funding; Takeda: Research Funding.
Purpose of study: Minimally invasive vertebroplasty—which involves the percutaneous injection of polymethylmethacrylate bone cement into a vertebral body—was developed in France in the 1980s. The indication for treatment is the management of pain, likely caused by structural instability of the vertebral body. Percutaneous balloon kyphoplasty, a recent modification of vertebroplasty, involves inflation of a balloon into the collapsed vertebral body to restore height and reduce kyphotic deformity, prior to stabilization with bone cement. The current North American experience with both procedures is largely limited to the treatment of benign osteoporotic compression fractures. The objective of this study was to assess the safety and efficacy of vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty in the treatment of painful vertebral body fractures in cancer patients. Methods used: We reviewed a consecutive group of patients undergoing vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty at out institution between October 2000 and February 2002. Five patients treated for benign osteoporotic compression fractures were excluded. Ninety-seven procedures (65 vertebroplasties and 32 kyphoplasties) were performed in 56 patients during 58 treatment sessions. Mean age was 62 years (range, 30–81 yr) and mean duration of symptoms was 5.3 months. Indications for treatment were intractable spinal pain from osteolytic disease and instability secondary to metastases (35 patients) or myeloma (21 patients). Symptomatic levels were identified by correlating the clinical data with MRI and radiographic findings. of findings: Patients noted marked or complete pain relief after 51 procedures (88%), and no change after 3 procedures (5%); data were incomplete in four patients (7%). No patient was worse after treatment. Reductions in visual analog pain scores remained significant up to 1 year (p=.02, Wilcoxon signed-rank test). After a mean follow-up of 4.3 months, only one patient had died; mean survival, as determined by Kaplan-Meier analysis, was 12.9 months. There were no deaths or complications related to the procedures. One patient was readmitted to hospital 15 days after kypho-plasty for an exacerbation of preexisting congestive heart failure. A patient with metastatic esthesioneuroblastoma developed sudden paraplegia 13 days after an L1 vertebroplasty secondary to spinal cord compression caused by a progressive T8 epidural metastasis. Relationship between findings and existing knowledge: The efficacy of vertebroplasty in the present report is similar to the two comparable European series [1,2]. A lack of complications related to bone cement leakage may reflect the use of relatively smaller injection volumes. To the authors' knowledge, kyphoplasty in the setting of cancer has not been previously reported. Overall significance of findings: Percutaneous vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty provided significant pain relief in a high percentage of patients that appears to be durable over time. Precise indications for each of these techniques are evolving; however, they are safe and feasible in well-selected patients with refractory spinal pain resulting from myeloma bone disease or metastases. Disclosures: Device or drug: vertebroplasty. Status: approved. Device or drug: kyphoplasty. Status: approved. Conflict of interest: No conflicts.
Objectives: To update the cancer mortality patterns among Iowa (United States) farmers for the years 1987-93 and compare these results with those previously reported for 1971-86 as well as relate the PMR patterns to risk-factor survey data. Methods: We extracted usual occupation and cause of death from 88,090 Iowa death certificates for White males aged 20 and older for the years 1987-93. Proportional mortality ratios (PMR), adjusted for age, and 95 percent confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using deaths among nonfarmers to generate expected numbers. We compared lifestyle profiles for farmers and nonfarmers using male controls (n = 1,596) from a population-based case-control study conducted in Iowa from 1986-89. Results: Iowa farmers had deficit PMRs for all-cause cancer mortality (PMR = 0.92, CI = 0.90-0.94) and for lung (PMR = 0.70, CI = 0.66-0.73), liver (PMR = 0.65, CI = 0.50-0.86), and other cancer sites strongly related to smoking and alcohol use. Farmers at all ages had excess deaths for cancers of the prostate (PMR = 1.26, CI = 1.19-1.33), rectum (PMR = 1.29, CI = 1.07-1.56), brain (PMR = 1.10, CI = 0.92-1.32), multiple myeloma (PMR = 1.17, CI = 0.98-1.40), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (PMR = 1.09, CI = 0.96-1.23), and Hodgkin's disease (PMR = 1.62, CI = 1.04-2.54). Younger farmers (aged 20 to 64 years) had excess deaths for colon cancer (PMR = 1.52, CI = 1.26-1.85) and skin melanoma (PMR = 1.60, CI = 1.07-2.38), while older farmers (aged 65+ years) had excess deaths for cancers of the pancreas (PMR = 1.18, CI = 1.04-1.34), lip (PMR = 1.58, CI = 0.59-4.21), and leukemia (PMR = 1.26, CI = 1.09-1.46). Since the 1970s, the PMR for stomach cancer has declined to expected values, while the PMRs for prostate, large intestine, pancreas, and Hodgkin's disease have increased; PMRs for other sites are consistent with earlier data. A survey from 1986-89 showed that farmers, compared with nonfarmers, smoked less, used less alcohol, had less formal education, and consumed more total calories, and calories from protein, fat, and meat while consuming fewer calories from fruits and vegetables. Conclusions: Iowa farmers continue to be at elevated risk of mortality due to certain cancers, and, of particular interest, the risk for prostate and colon cancer appears to be increasing since 1970. Cancer Causes and Control 1998, 9, 311-319