There is no question stem cell transplants (SCTs) help many patients for a number of years. But the procedure is not without risk—and some patients get very little benefit in the end.
As with most things in life, timing is everything! How and when it is best to undergo a SCT is one of the most commonly asked questions I receive each and every day—in person, by phone or e-mail.
The usual answer is that myeloma experts and researchers simply don’t know how best to time a patient’s SCT.
But Dr. Berenson isn’t your usual multiple myeloma expert! He suggests using SCT as a last resort. Period.
I admire his position—and for some patients it makes sense. But I have heard Dr. Berenson criticized from time to time among the myeloma community for his views. A while back, one prominent, pro transplant blogger e-mailed me and accused Dr. Berenson of “hurting patients” by prescribing less than convention therapy options—including arsenic trioxide—and his reluctance to transplant.
Dr. Berenson and I never discussed using any treatments other than convention novel therapies, so I can’t speak to that. Our conversation focused on what he felt are the overuse of stem cell transplantation in the field. I believe SCT’s are a reasonable therapy option for multiple myeloma patients. But based on the available data, it is fair to question their use as a standard of care in newly diagnosed patients.
As important as this is, it wasn’t the only myeloma treatment philosophy we discussed Monday. Tomorrow I will share Dr. Berenson’s views about what I should do now that Revlimid has started to fail me after almost four years.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat