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Acta Haematol. 2005;114 Suppl 1:3-7.

The current status of thalidomide in the management of multiple myeloma.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


Early anticancer research involving thalidomide was abandoned in the 1960s as the catastrophe surrounding the drug emerged, but research efforts were picked up in the 1990s when thalidomide's antiangiogenic and anti-tumour necrosis factor properties were explored. More than 50,000 patients with multiple myeloma are estimated to have been treated with thalidomide to date. Research with thalidomide provides clear and convincing evidence that thalidomide monotherapy is efficacious in relapsed and refractory patients with multiple myeloma. Results typically show a consistent 30% (95% confidence interval 27-32%) response rate (partial response + complete response, defined as a reduction of at least 50% in the monoclonal protein). Thalidomide treatment compares favourably with other typical treatments for multiple myeloma. In seven trials that included 332 patients, vincristine, adriamycin and dexamethasone (VAD) had a response rate of 39% (32-45%), while a trial in 193 patients showed a response rate with bortezomib of 27% (21-34%). The use of thalidomide in combination therapy could boost its efficacy further. More studies to look at the toxicity of the drug need to be carried out. Despite thalidomide's dark past, this drug is of major interest and could be brought back to clinical use in a controlled manner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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