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Despite advances in the treatment for persons with multiple myeloma, the majority of patients with this disease still experience a cancer recurrence following current standard therapies. Researchers have been evaluating new treatment approaches in an ongoing attempt to improve outcomes and survival times for patients with multiple myeloma. Presently, a pivotal clinical trial is underway to evaluate the effectiveness of a promising novel strategy involving Holmium in the treatment for multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer involving certain immune (infection fighting) cells in the body called plasma cells. Plasma cells aid the body in fighting infection by producing specialized proteins, called antibodies that have the ability to target and/or kill foreign cells. In multiple myeloma, cancerous plasma cells produce abnormal and excessive antibodies that do not have the ability to properly fight infection. In addition, the cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow suppressing the normal formation and function of other cells that are necessary for normal production of blood cells and immune functions. Ultimately, the excessive accumulation of cancer cells in the bone marrow leads to formation of tumors in the bone and the breakdown of bone.

Standard therapy for multiple myeloma currently consists of high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy followed by a stem cell transplant. However, only 30-35% of patients receiving this treatment achieve a complete disappearance of cancer (remission). In a recent clinical trial, a promising new treatment approach involving a radioactive isotope called Holmium, produced dramatic outcomes when combined with standard therapy compared to standard therapy alone in patients with multiple myeloma. As reported at the Proceedings of the American Society of Hematology in 1999, approximately 50% of patients receiving Holmium in the trial had complete disappearance of cancer.

Holmium is a radioactive isotope (substance that spontaneously emits radiation) that specifically targets the bone. Since most of the myeloma cancer cells are in the bones, Holmium delivers radiation directly to the site in the body involving the majority of myeloma cells. This approach augments using beneficial effects of treatment while sparing healthy tissues from the potential side effects produced by radiation. In order for Holmium to be integrated into standard treatment for multiple myeloma, outcomes from further clinical trials involving the use of Holmium need to be assessed in order to confirm consistent superior effectiveness and safety compared to current standard therapies.

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Persons with multiple myeloma who are interested in participating in this clinical trial may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of receiving treatment with Holmium or other promising new strategies for the treatment of multiple myeloma. (

Proceedings of the American Society of Hematology, Vol 94, No 10, 1999)

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