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European Hematology Association Finds Donor Stem Cell Transplants Are Not More Effective Than Existing Treatments For Multiple Myeloma

Posted on July 11 2010 by Pat Killingsworth | 723 views

Friday I wrote about my four part series featured on/in The Myeloma Beacon.  The Beacon is an excellent, independent source for multiple myeloma related news.  Here is an example:

Donor Stem Cell Transplant Is Not More Effective Than Existing Treatments For Multiple Myeloma (EHA 2010) by Melissa Cobleigh, July 9, 2010
The results of a recent study suggest that donor stem cell transplants may not be necessary as part of first line therapy for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients. These findings were presented at the recent European Hematology Association (EHA) meeting held in Barcelona, Spain…

Due to potential rejection, transplants with donor cells are riskier than transplants using the patient’s stem cells. Therefore, the role of allogeneic transplants in the treatment of myeloma is disputed by clinicians and researchers.  This study was designed to evaluate the value of allogeneic stem cell transplantation as part of first line therapy for newly diagnosed myeloma patients.
Curious about the details and the study’s findings?  Go to:  Researchers conclude there was no improvement of patient outcome by including allogeneic transplantation instead of thalidomide maintenance as part of first line therapy.

Great article, Melissa!  I must admit I was surprised to learn there was no statistical difference between patients who underwent a donor transplant and those on Thalomid maintenance.  Certainly the risk of such transplants (more dangerous and less common than a transplant using a patient’s own stem cells) doesn’t justify the rewards–at least initially.

Now for the real unanswered question:  What about transplants using a patient’s own stem cells?  Such autologous stem cell transplants (often referred to as ASCT or SCT), are still the standard of care for many newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients. 

I write about this a lot.  Even though much safer than a donor (allogeneic) transplant, a SCT is still a major, invasive procedure.  Any multiple myeloma patient should think carefully about whether to undergo a SCT–and a second opinion is always a good idea here.

Autologous stem cell transplants work for a majority of patients for an average of eighteen months.  But sometimes they work for a much shorter period of time.  Sometimes they don’t work at all.  And there can be side-effects.  The most common is long, long periods of recovery time.  Some patients I have interviewed still don’t feel strong and “normal” a full year after the procedure.

Yet I know others where their SCTs have lasted over five years.  Are you feeling lucky?
Yes or no, I hope you feel good and can keep smiling!  Pat

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