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Br J Cancer. 1994 Dec;70(6):1203-10.

Treatment of multiple myeloma according to the extension of the disease: a prospective, randomised study comparing a less with a more aggressive cystostatic policy. Cooperative Group of Study and Treatment of Multiple Myeloma.

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Clinica Medica II, Università and Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Policlinico S. Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


The purpose of the study was to ascertain whether the prognostic significance of staging in multiple myeloma (MM) is influenced by the aggressiveness of effective induction treatment and/or by continuing or discontinuing maintenance chemotherapy. Patients with untreated stage I MM (defined according to Durie and Salmon) were randomised between being followed without cytostatics until the disease progressed and receiving six courses of melphalan and prednisone (MP-P) just after diagnosis; stage II patients were uniformly treated with MPH-P and stage III patients were randomised between MPH-P and four courses of combination chemotherapy with Peptichemio, vincristine and prednisone (PTC-VCR-P). Within each stage, responsive patients were randomised between receiving additional therapy only until maximal tumour reduction was reached (plateau phase) and continuing induction therapy indefinitely until relapse. With resistant, progressive or relapsing disease, patients originally treated with MPH-P for induction received combination chemotherapy and vice versa. The overall first response rate was 43.8% (42.2% in 206 stage I, II and III patients treated with MPH-P and 48.0% in 75 stage III patients treated with combination chemotherapy, P = NS). Combination chemotherapy was more myelotoxic than MPH-P and, in particular, caused more non-haematological side-effects. Both the less and the more aggressive induction policies gave the same disease control. Progression of disease was statistically similar in stage I patients who were initially left untreated and in t hose who received MPH-P just after diagnosis; median duration of first response was similar in stage III patients receiving MPH-P and in those on combination chemotherapy. In all stages, discontinuing or continuing maintenance did not alter the median duration of first response. The overall second response rate was 28.5% (34.0% to MPH-P and 25.3% to combination chemotherapy, P = NS). Median survival was greater than 78 months in stage I, was 46.3 months in stage II and was 24.3 months in stage III patients, still independent of both induction and post-induction policies. In MM, the significance of staging for survival is independent of both the aggressiveness of induction and of continuing or discontinuing maintenance chemotherapy after the maximal tumor reduction has been achieved. Both MPH-P and and the association of PTC, VCR and P are effective in inducing first response and also second response in patients failing on the alternative regimen, but PTC-VCR-P causes more side effects. Thus, the overwhelming majority of patients with MM can safely be given MPH-P as first therapy, and this treatment may be delayed in early diseases.

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