Treatment for Multiple Myeloma

The treatment for Multiple Myeloma is generally aimed at relieving symptoms and prolonging life. In cases, where the symptoms are mild or the diagnosis is still not certain, most doctors adopt a wait and watch approach and start treatment only once symptoms become evident.

Treatment for multiple myeloma is split up into different stages – the removal of the cancer cells, the maintenance stage to stop the cancer from returning, treatment of symptoms and side effects, and relapse therapy in cases the cancer recurs. Treatment to bring the cancer under control includes:

  • Medications such as Dexamethasone, melphalan, cyclophosphamide, doxil, thalidomide, lenalidomide (Revlimid), and bortezomib (Velcade) are prescribed alone or can be used together. Bisphosphonates are also taken to reduce bone pain and prevent fractures.
  • Radiation therapy may be recommended to reduce bone pain or treat a tumor in the bone.
  • Chemotherapy can be taken orally or intravenously. This is done to kill myeloma cells and is generally given in a number of cycles over some months. Once the M protein levels remain stable, chemotherapy is stopped and resumed only if levels begin to rise again.
  • A stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant is a procedure where the patient receives a transfusion of stem cells to treat the cancer. An “autologous” bone marrow or stem cell transplant uses the patient’s own stem cells whereas an “allogeneic” transplant makes use of a donor’s stem cells. Your candidacy for a stem cell transplant will depend on the stage of the cancer, your age and overall health as well as the risk of the disease progressing
Treatment to prevent the cancer from returning includes:

  • Prescription of corticosteroids and thalidomide to prevent new cancerous cells from developing in the bone marrow.
  • Interferon alpha injections that are administered weekly to encourage the immune system to attack any newly formed cancer cells in the bone marrow.
Treatment for symptoms of myeloma and myeloma include:

  • Radiotherapy to reduce bone pain and encourage healing.
  • Wearing a back brace to treat chronic back pain.
  • Painkillers to relieve pain.
  • Medications or dialysis to treat kidney failure.
  • Antibiotics to fight infections.
  • Medications to prevent bone loss.
  • Erythropoietin injections to encourage red blood cell production in case anemia is persistent.
Treatment for relapsed myeloma includes:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Another stem cell transplant
  • Additional medication