Treatment Combination Offers New Option for Patients with Advanced Multiple Myeloma, UPCI Researchers Find

University of Pittsburgh and UPMC


SAN DIEGO, CA – Patients with multiple myeloma who have exhausted other treatment options may respond well to the addition of bendamustine to chemotherapy, according to a study led by Suzanne Lentzsch, M.D., Ph.D., clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s multiple myeloma program. The results will be presented at the 53rd annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.

“We found that the addition of bendamustine, which is used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoma, to the combination of lenalidomide and dexamethasone was well-tolerated by patients,” said Dr. Lentzsch. “This is particularly exciting because multiple myeloma is a chronic disease, and relapses occur. For patients who have exhausted their treatment options, this drug offers another alternative.”

The study, which was the first study in the U.S. of bendamustine in patients with multiple myeloma, enrolled patients beginning in June of 2008 and concluded in February 2011. Over the course of the study, 36 patients between the ages of 38 and 80 were enrolled, and all of them had been treated previously with a median of three different regimens for multiple myeloma. Not only did patients, including the elderly, tolerate the drug well, but they also responded quickly to it. A high response rate of 55 percent partial and very good partial remissions in heavily pretreated patients suggests that the drug combination overcame previous drug resistance to destroy cancer cells.

Dr. Lentzsch is leading further studies exploring whether bendamustine will be effective alone or in combination with other drugs for the same patient population.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in the bone marrow. A group of plasma cells becomes cancerous (myeloma cells) and multiplies, causing health problems ranging from anemia to kidney damage. Approximately 20,500 new cases of multiple myeloma will be diagnosed this year.

This study also enrolled patients at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan, under the leadership of Jeffrey Zonder, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and Oncology, Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine. The study was supported by Cephalon.