ASCO 2012 – Blog Post # 1

Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, outlined what

seems to be Mayo Clinic’s current standard of care for newly-diagnosed

patients. Title: Upfront Therapy for Myeloma –

Tailoring Therapy Across the Disease Spectrum. This is a very

significant talk. With it, he presented a flow chart for determining the

best initial treatment for a newly-diagnosed patient.

He suggests first stratifying a patient’s disease according to risk as

determined by cytogenetic testing (wacky chromosomes) or by unusual

espressions of disease:

  • The highest-risk patients typically live only two to three years after

    diagnosis, and not much has been done to improve that. His description of

    treatments for these patients is beyond the scope of this blog post.

  • Medium-risk patients are those with a specific genetic translocation

    (t4;14), which he says can be converted to standard-risk by the use of

    Velcade. Not some other novel drug, but Velcade.

  • Standard-risk patients have a wide array of available treatments

    before them, and the real question for the doctor is, which should s/he


He then suggests classifying the standard risk patient once more, according

to eligibility for transplant, determined not so much by age as by health

factors such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and other

“comorbidities.” For those eligible for transplant:

  • Use Revlimid/dexamethasone (Rd) or Velcade/cyclophosphamide/dex (VCd)

    as an induction regimen for four cycles. To reduce the risk of treatment-

    limiting neuropathy, Velcade should be given once weekly, not twice weekly,

    or given subcutaneously.

  • If the patient achieves a good response after four cycles, then stem

    cells can be harvested and stored.

  • After stem cell harvest the patient may be offered the choice of an

    immediate autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) or continued treatment

    with the induction regimen.

  • A transplant is an aggressive treatment approach by any measure, aiming

    for a complete response but carrying significant risks, while the

    continuing induction regimen can be thought of as the beginning of a

    “sequential disease control approach that emphasizes quality of life as

    well as survival.” In this second approach, another regimen will be tried

    when the original one fails. At present there are no data showing clear

    superiority of one approach over the other.

Transplant ineligible patients are usually elderly and have medical

complications. Some points:

  • Rev/dex (Rd) is commonly used in the USA. The optimum duration is not

    clear, but dexamethasone is usually lowered to a minimal amount or

    discontinued after a year.

  • Thalidomide/dex is inferior to melphalan/prednisone and should not be

    used for these patients.

  • Melphalan/prednisone/Revlimid (MPR) is not more effective than MP

    without Revlimid, he says. However, melphalan/prednisone/thalidomide (MPT)

    is superior to MP alone. An improvement is also likely if Velcade is added

    to the MP combination, although neuropathy is a risk. Cyclophosphamide can

    be substituted for the melphalan to reduce side effects.

  • Having said all of that, he believes that Rev/dex (Rd) or

    Velcade/cyclophosphamide/dex (VCD) may be the best choices for this group,

    just as they are for the transplant-eligible patients. VCD is preferred

    for patients with kidney issues.

Final thought: The two endpoints that matter to the patient are length of survival and quality of life.

McCormick Place in Chicago is the largest convention center in the USA, and the ASCO convention brings to it over 30,000 clinical oncologists from all over the world.