Multiple myeloma (MM) is a haematological malignancy characterised by the clonal expansion of malignant plasma cells within the bone marrow. It accounts for 10% of all haematological malignant diseases and 1% of all malignancies. The median age of patients at the time of the diagnosis is 70 years. The characteristic clinical features of MM are bone marrow failure, susceptibility to infections, bone pain, pathological bone fractures, hypercalcaemia, and renal failure. Though MM is currently incurable, the important progress in chemotherapy has resulted in an improvement in survival from a median of 7 months in the 1950-ies to about 3 years today. Advances in the diagnosis and in supportive treatment of infections, hypercalcaemia, and renal failure also contributed to the prolongation of survival. For decades, the gold standard of treatment had been oral melphalan alone or in combination with prednisolone. Combination chemotherapy has not improved overall survival (OS), but these regimens have led to the prolongation of event-free survival (EFS) and also to a better quality of life. High-dose chemotherapy with haemopoietic stem cell rescue resulted in a great improvement in EFS as well as OS. For those very few who have an HLA-compatible donor and are under 55, allogeneic bone marrow transplantation offers the best hope of survival but comes at a greatly increased risk of toxicity. There are conflicting data in the literature concerning the role of interferon- ; it seems to be able to prolong the duration of the plateau phase. Current treatment is moving towards an approach using sequential therapy. This involves induction therapy proceeding to high-dose chemotherapy with some form of stem-cell rescue. Bisphosphonates reduce hypercalcaemia, bone pain and can inhibit bone destruction. They also possess a direct antitumor activity. The better understanding of the pathomechanism of the disease gives the opportunity of the application of new therapeutic modalities such as antagonising the effect of interleukin-6 (IL-6), or idiotypic vaccination.
|Number of pages||8|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 1 2001|
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