The Study Is Over

For me.  Sad to say, because this treatment was the easiest I’ve ever been on, and it has worked well for other people (with other blood cancers).  Yesterday’s blood tests and PET/CT show progression of the myeloma, however, and after 13 weeks (a quarter of a year!) it certainly should be heading the other way.

According to Dr WG the PET/CT does not show any new lesions in my bones, which probably means that the study treatment was doing some good.  However, it does show increased activity in the existing lesions.  For a while we wondered if that increasing activity was “flare,” caused by my own immune system attacking the myeloma.  There may indeed be some flare, but we have reached the point where it doesn’t matter, because the myeloma is clearly not backing down.

To underscore that point, the blood tests also show progression in the last three weeks.  M-spike is level at 1.5 g/dL, but IgG increased by 9% from 1600 to 1740 mg/dL, the seventh increase in a row, except for one sharp bump up and back down when I was quite sick with the stomach flu. Furthermore my Lambda Light Chains almost doubled from three weeks ago, from 4.46 to 8.60 mg/dL, while Kappa chains went down.  I’m not sure what this means but no one believes that it can be good.

I gave the study a good try, but it’s over.  Sigh.  So what’s next?

Happily, I do have a little Pomalyst left, not expired yet, so I can start taking that immediately, with the blessing of Dr WG.  I’ll also take 20 mg of dexamethasone (DEX) tonight, and then 40 mg Monday night, no doubt the first of many Monday nights.  I like to take the weekly DEX on Monday so that its side effects are mostly gone by the weekend, which is when I run marathons. Also, I like to take it at bedtime because, surprisingly, it interferes with my sleep the least that way.

Dr WG is still considering a second drug to take with the Pomalyst and DEX, or perhaps eventually with Revlimid and DEX.  Daratumumab (Darzalex) is a great choice, though I’m certainly no fan of Janssen Biotech, the company that is “commercializing” it, because of past criminal activity.  Elotuzumab (Empliciti) is a possibility as well.  Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) has also shown promise in early trials with Pomalyst or Revlimid and DEX.  It is FDA approved for melanoma (it saved President Carter), but is not yet approved for myeloma and thus may present an insurance issue.  All of those are monoclonal antibodies, not unlike the study drugs that I have been taking, but with demonstrated efficacy when combined with an IMiD like Pomalyst or Revlimid.

Another choice is an IMiD with a proteasome inhibitor and DEX – the standard of care for newly-diagnosed patients.  Unfortunately, though, I have already tried one proteasome inhibitor, which did nothing for the myeloma but did cause peripheral neuropathy.  Proteasome inhibitors work miracles for most patients, but may not be in my future.  The one possibility is carfilzomib (Kyprolis), as it may be the least apt to cause side effects.

It’s great to have choices! I’ll post as soon as a plan is finalized.