Roswell Park research aids development of myeloma drug

Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) researchers played a leading role in clinical studies which led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a new treatment for patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma - the second most common blood cancer.

Clinical scientists from the multiple myeloma research group lead by Asher Chanan-Khan, MD, Department of Medicine, RPCI, contributed research which led to the approval of the oral medication, lenalidomide (Revlimid), in combination with dexamethasone, for the treatment for patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least one prior therapy. Revlimid is made by the Celgene Corporation.

Lenalidomide belongs to a new class of oral cancer drugs that are chemically similar to thalidomide but appear to be more potent and lack some of the more common side effects of thalidomide.

"Lenalidomide is helping to transform multiple myeloma from a terminal disease to a chronic condition. This drug helps to slow progression of the disease and in some cases, patients achieve complete remission," said Dr. Chanan-Khan.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. An estimated 16,570 new cases of this incurable but treatable disease are expected to be diagnosed in 2006. At present there are more than 50,000 people in the United States living with multiple myeloma.

"FDA approval validates the importance of the clinical trial process and is testament to the courage of patients who participated in these studies so that future patients will have better, more effective treatments available to them," continued Dr. Chanan-Khan.

Roswell Park also is conducting pioneering clinical trial research on lenalidomide as a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). A phase II study, presented at the 2006 national meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, was the first to report clinical activity of lenalidomide in CLL patients, some of whom experienced a major response to therapy.

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