Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer that affects plasma cells. These cells are present in bone marrow – the soft tissue which is found on the inside of bones. When the plasma cells become infected, they begin to duplicate aggressively, forming a tumor which can damage bones and ultimately the kidneys and immune system.
Pomalidomide is an orally-administered drug, meaning it can be eaten in capsule-form. This is considered a bonus for many therapies, given that it is easy and comfortable for patients to take.
At the moment, pomalidomide is administered to patients who have few treatment options left, perhaps because they have not responded well to most others. In the U.S., as per the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) terms of approval, pomalidomide is only given to patients who have previously received at least two other lines of treatment including lenalidomide (Revlimid) and bortezomib (Velcade). This is true of many other multiple myeloma therapies; some are generally only given to patients who have not responded well to other treatments.
A 2013 report published in The Lancet documents a clinical trial funded by pomalidomide developer Celgene Corporation. 302 patients from around the world with were randomly assigned to take part. The patients had to have an advanced multiple myeloma that was either refractory (resistant to treatment) or both relapsed (the cancer returned despite previous shrinkage or disappearance) and refractory. In addition, each patient had to have been given two prior treatments of bortezomib, lenalidomide, or both.
Each patient was then administered either a dose of pomalidomise plus a low dose of dexamethasone or a high dose of dexamethasone alone.
The results of the study then showed the progression-free survival time (PFS) of patients – the length of time in which the cancer did not get any worse after treatment. The patients who were given pomalidomise plus a low dose of dexamethasone had a PFS of 4 months, whereas those who received just dexamethasone had a PFS of 1.9 months. Overall survival time in patients who received pomalidomise plus dexamethasone was 12.7 months compared with 8.1 months in patients who received dexamethasone alone.
Side-effects of the drug include low white and red blood cell count, as well as low blood platelet count. Generally, symptoms include tiredness and weakness, stomach problems, back pain, fever and shortness of breath.
Featured image: Depositphotos / Londondeposit