Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interesting news from the Myeloma Beacon

There are plenty of blogs out there that report new developments in traditional and alternative cancer therapy and research.  My friend Pat Killingsworth has an excellent one here.

My blog normally doesn't do that, but in a response to the previous comment, "J" noted a recent (as in yesterday) article in the Myeloma Beacon that talked about how a test called a polymerase chain reaction or PCR can be used to detect residual cancer cells after a stem cell transplant, and this article is important enough to comment on.

The real point of the article, which can be found here, is that maintenance therapy with Velcade, Dex, and Thalidomide "may be effective in further reducing the number of tumor cells surviving in the marrow after ACST to levels only observed with allogeneic stem cell transplantations."  That is: cure.

Here's where I point out that my original hematologist said, matter-of-factly, "I don't believe in maintenance therapy."  He pointed out at the time that City of Hope did not, that MAYO did not, etc.  I heard this from another doctor recently who thought it was "inconvenient" to take six months out of one's life for all this treatment and then be chained to a doctor's office weekly for three years.  Meanwhile, BB has been honing maintenance therapy with these agents since 2003, and now uses Revlimid instead of Thalidomide which the article said could further improve the already clear benefits of maintenance therapy.

Fifteen months ago, hardly anybody was doing maintenance therapy.  And now, we see that it probably saves lives.  The world is coming around.  BB is right.

Now, unfortunately, even BB's protocol only cures about 60% of patients -- that leaves a lot who need other therapies to beat the disease.  And I remain heartened by the continued focus on developing new drugs for these and other MM sufferers.