Millennium was started 16 years ago and began working on PS-341 (Velcade) about 6 years later. Velcade was approved by the FDA in 2003. The first-in-class proteasome inhibitor, Velcade still holds the record for fastest FDA approval for any cancer related drug. Millennium was acquired by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company from Japan last year and was formally renamed Millennium, The Takeda Oncology Company, last year as well. There are advantages and disadvantages with using Velcade. Advantages include it is still one of the most effective anti-myeloma medications. It works well in combination with other anti-myeloma drugs as well. Since it is an IV drug, it is covered by basic Medicaie Part B and approved for use by all major medical insurance companies. The disadvantage of using Velcade is, conversely, it is an IV drug (ouch!) and can cause varying degrees of paripheral neuropathy in many patients. To help overcome these two obstacles, Millennium is currently testing an oral Velcade substitute, along with several other proteasome inhibitors which should have fewer side-effects and also be more effective.
Dr. Lain Webb, Senior Medical Director of Millennium, presented a short 45 minute presentation about multiple myeloma basics. Dr. Webb pointed out that the number of newly diagnosed cases of multiple myeloma in the US this year will be up from just over 19,000 to over 20,500 in 2010. Broken down by gender, about 11,000 of these patients will be men and 8,500 women. Dr. Webb described myeloma as a “ball of abdormal plasma cells.” The name, multiple myeloma, was originally coined from pathalogists who noticed a number of these “balls” or “clumps” in different areas of the bone marrow. Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) can sometimes develop in myeloma patients, as can amyloidosis.
Dr. Webb felt it is becoming clear younger patients do tend to live longer after diagnosis than older patients. The terms remission and response are now being used interchangeably in the field. The patient attendees discussed the variety of terms used by oncologists (complete remission or response, very good partial response, near remission, etc) It is very clear to me that patients are hearing different terminology from their health care providers in different parts of the country. The field could really use more standardized terminology!
A great topic for a future series of blog posts, don’t you think?
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat