According to results recently published in the journal Cancer, updated results from a clinical trial evaluating Velcade® (bortezomib) in the treatment of multiple myeloma indicate long-term benefit of treatment with this agent.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer involving important immune (infection-fighting) cells called plasma cells. It is the second most common hematologic (blood) cancer in the U.S., where an estimated 50,000 individuals are currently living with multiple myeloma.
Plasma cells help the body fight infection by producing specialized proteins called antibodies that target and 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, which suppresses the formation and function of other cells necessary for normal production of blood cells and immune functions. This excessive accumulation of cancer cells in the bone marrow ultimately leads to the formation of tumors in the bone and to the breakdown of bone.
If multiple myeloma returns following therapy, it is referred to as recurrent. Effective and easily tolerated treatment options are limited for patients with recurrent multiple myeloma.
Velcade is an agent approved for patients with multiple myeloma whose disease has progressed following one or more previous therapies. Velcade offers a new avenue for treatment: As a proteosome inhibitor, it interferes with the growth and survival of cancer cells responsible for recurrent multiple myeloma.
Proteosomes are proteins found in virtually all cells that are responsible for the breakdown and reuse of a cell’s other proteins. Proteosomes regulate several aspects of cellular activity, including survival.
Velcade has demonstrated an inhibitory effect on cellular survival through its effects on proteosomes. The drug also makes cancer cells more vulnerable to the killing effects of chemotherapy in refractory myeloma cells. Evaluation of Velcade continues in the treatment of different stages of multiple myeloma, as well as in the treatment of other types of cancer.
The pivotal clinical trial demonstrating Velcade’s effectiveness in the treatment of multiple myeloma is referred to as the SUMMIT trial. Although earlier data from this trial had been published previously, final and updated results from this trial have recently been published. This trial included 193 patients with multiple myeloma that had stopped responding to standard therapies. All patients were treated with Velcade.
The following results include follow-up of all patients for a median of 23 months:
- 35% of patients achieved a complete or partial disappearance of their cancer (responders).
- For responding patients, the median time to cancer progression was nearly 14 months; conversely, patients who did not achieve a response to Velcade had a median time to cancer progression of only 1.3 months.
- For responding patients, the median duration of overall survival has not yet been reached (at 23 months); conversely, patients who did not achieve a response to Velcade had a median duration of survival of only 8 months.
The researchers concluded that long-term follow-up continues to confirm the effectiveness of Velcade in the treatment of recurrent multiple myeloma. Patients who respond to Velcade can achieve long-term survival with minimal side effects.
Patients with relapsed multiple myeloma whose disease has stopped responding to standard therapies may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of treatment with Velcade.
Reference: Richardson P, Barlogie B, Berenson J, et al. Extended Follow-Up of a Phase II Trial in Relapsed, Refractory Multiple Myeloma. Cancer. 2006; 106: 1316-1319.
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