Multiple myeloma treatments are given to cancer patients during various stages of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that attacks the plasma cells in bone marrow. The plasma cells produce antibodies to fight infection in the body. In multiple myeloma, plasma cells multiply and cause health problems to the immune system, kidneys and bones. The different types of multiple myeloma treatments include induction therapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy and various combinations of therapies.
These treatments are primarily given to patients who have symptoms of multiple myeloma and are based on the cancer stage. Treatment is not always necessary for patients who do not exhibit any symptoms. The first phase of treatment is induction therapy, which consists of one or more methods to reduce the growth of multiple myeloma. The drugs thalidomide and lenalidomide are given to patients to prevent new blood vessels from growing inside a solid tumor.
Two types of targeted therapy — proteasome inhibitor therapy and monoclonal antibody therapy — consist of drugs and medicinal substances that attack the specific multiple myeloma cancer cells without disturbing the normal cells. Proteasome destroys cellular proteins in the body. Proteasome inhibitor therapy uses the drug bortezomib to block this action while possibly preventing the growth of more tumors. Antibodies are developed in a laboratory from immune system cells for monoclonal antibody therapy. Patients are given this antibody to either kill, block or prevent the spreading of the cancerous cells.
Chemotherapy, a common cancer treatment, is also used for multiple myeloma in one of two ways. Chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream by oral medications or by injections into veins or muscles. Regional chemotherapy places the drug directly into the area of the body where cancer cells exist. The type of chemotherapy used in multiple myeloma treatments depends on the stage of cancer.
High-dose forms of chemotherapy to kill myeloma cells are used with an autologous stem-cell transplant from the patient or with allogeneic stem-cell transplant from a donor. Before chemotherapy begins, stem cells are removed from the blood or bone marrow and frozen. The stored stem cells are thawed and infused into the patient’s body after chemotherapy treatment. The stem cells restore the body’s blood cells to normal.
Patients also can participate in clinical trials for multiple myeloma treatments. These trials explore a combination of therapies for myeloma to determine safe and effective ways to treat the cancer. Clinical trails are for patients who have not begun any cancer treatment, but they also are conducted with patients who have started cancer treatment.