Thalomid (thalidomide) has been given a new lease of life following the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the drug to be used in combination with the steroid dexamethasone for the treatment of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood that affects the plasma cells which are an important part of the immune system.
They produce antibodies which help to fight infection and disease.
With multiple myeloma an excess production of abnormal plasma cells takes place which leave the body vulnerable to an increased risk of bacterial infections and impaired immune responses.
The disease may also damage the kidneys and cause osteoporosis, anemia, and an elevated blood calcium level.
It is the second most common cancer of the blood in the United States and affects approximately 50,000 individuals.
The drug already has approval for use in the treatment of erythema nodosum leprosum, or ENL, an affliction closely associated with leprosy.
The drug is an immunomodulatory agent that helps the immune system fight cancer and it also has the ability to stop or prevent blood vessels from growing and providing cancer cells with nutrients and oxygen for their spread and growth.
During a clinical trial the new use for Thalomid was prompted by a direct comparison of Thalomid plus dexamethasone to dexamethasone alone in the treatment of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma.
The patients treated with Thalomid/dexamethasone had improved anticancer responses compared to those treated with dexamethasone alone.
Patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma should discuss their individual risks and benefits of treatment with Thalomid with their physician.