At MD Anderson, we help patients with multiple myeloma by offering a variety of treatments, as well as a range of clinical trials (research studies) of newer drugs and therapies. Our myeloma experts work closely with you to tailor the treatments that will best fight the disease, while focusing on your quality of life.
While treatments usually do not cure multiple myeloma, we can improve the quality of life and health of many patients by decreasing the disease and its symptoms for extended periods.
Advanced Treatment Options
For years, the standard approach to multiple myeloma has been high-dose chemotherapy to wipe out the bone marrow and the blood supply, often followed by a stem cell transplant. But MD Anderson is among a select few centers that are pioneering newer options that have less impact on your body. Many patients are having remarkable success.
These options include immunotherapy to help your body fight the cancer and new methods for stem cell transplantation. In addition, we are actively pursuing answers to reducing the side effects of multiple myeloma and its treatment. For instance, we were instrumental in finding that bisphosphates often can decrease bone-related events in multiple myeloma.
Multiple Myeloma Treatments
If you are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer and your general health.
Your treatment for multiple myeloma will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Drug therapy is the usual starting point in treating multiple myeloma. MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options. Liposomal drug delivery is an innovative method that can help chemotherapy be more effective.
MD Anderson is among just a few cancer centers in the nation that are able to offer targeted therapies for some types of multiple myeloma. These innovative new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the cancer with what it needs to grow.
Possibilities may include:
- Monoclonal antibodies, including Rituxan® (Rituximab)
- Biological therapies that develop antibodies to destroy cancer cells
- Proteasome inhibitors, such as bortezomib (Velcade®)
- Immune modulators, such as thalidomide and lenalidomide, that modify the environment of the tumor cell and allow it to die
- Small molecule treatment, such as panobinostat
- Cytokine therapies
- Vaccine therapy
- Bisphosphonates help reduce high calcium levels and decrease the risk of bone fracture
This usually is used to treat a specific area where there is bone destruction and pain. Radiation can destroy cancer cells more quickly than chemotherapy and has fewer side effects. For this reason, it often is used to get quicker pain relief and control severe bone loss.
Stem Cell Transplants
If a stem cell transplant is needed, MD Anderson has one of the most active and advanced programs in the nation.
If abnormal proteins become very high, leading to thickening of the blood, the plasma can be removed and replaced with normal plasma from a healthy donor. This can quickly relieve symptoms of increased blood thickness until chemotherapy/immunotherapy has a chance to destroy the multiple myeloma cells that are responsible for producing the abnormal protein.
This approach involves closely monitoring multiple myeloma without active treatment.