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Targeted Therapies for Multiple Myeloma Tutorial

Introduction

In This Section:

Targeted Therapies—Overview

Targeted therapies are transforming the way people treat cancer. These carefully designed drugs have already begun to make personalized medicine a reality and will continue to help doctors tailor cancer treatment based on the characteristics of each individual's cancer.

Image of health care providers looking at a medical chart.

It is important that health care professionals become familiar with the concept of targeted therapies so they can communicate with their patients about these new approaches and help patients make better-informed treatment decisions.

Multiple Myeloma Tutorial—Objectives

This tutorial focuses on the variety of targeted therapies that have been and are being developed to treat multiple myeloma.

By completing this tutorial, you will learn the answers to the following questions.

  • What molecules and pathways in multiple myeloma cells are being targeted?
  • What agents are being developed to target these molecules and pathways?
  • Which targeted therapies are currently approved by the FDA for treatment of multiple myeloma?
  • How can I find clinical trials of targeted therapies for multiple myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma Background

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that begins in plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell. In this cancer, abnormal plasma cells, called myeloma cells, accumulate in the bone marrow and may eventually interfere with the production and function of normal blood cells. Myeloma cells may also collect in the solid part of the bone.

An outline of a human body with a skeleton is shown on the left. An inset circle coming from the body shows a plasma cell and a few red blood cells.

The disease is called multiple myeloma because it affects many of the marrow-containing bones in the body, including arm and leg bones, the pelvis, ribs, vertebrae, and skull. Treatment for multiple myeloma depends on the stage of the disease and the patient's symptoms. Patients who do not have any symptoms may not undergo treatment but will be monitored closely by their doctor.

A health care provider is shown talking to a patient in a hospital bed.

Standard treatment for multiple myeloma includes chemotherapy and the administration of steroids. Because these treatments destroy both myeloma cells and normal cells, many patients also receive blood stem cell transplants.

In recent years, new treatments for multiple myeloma have come into wide use. These include Thalidomid® or Synovir® (thalidomide) and the related drug Revlimid® (lenalidomide), which are immune system modulators that have antiangiogenic activity, as well as the targeted agent Velcade® (bortezomib), which will be discussed in this tutorial. Preclinical experiments and clinical trials are under way to evaluate additional targeted therapies and to find out how best to use these drugs in combination with each other and with standard therapies.

This is a split screen image. A magnified view of stained blood cells is shown on the left and the gloved hands of a researcher doing an experiment are shown on the right. The screen text reads, 'Studies are under way to evaluate targeted therapies for multiple myeloma.'

This tutorial describes several strategies being pursued for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Many of these strategies are also relevant for, and being tested in, other types of cancer.