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New Questions About Transplantation in Multiple Myeloma: Review 2: Page 2 of 2

New Questions About Transplantation in Multiple Myeloma: Review 2: Page 2 of 2

Data from multiple single-center studies support the finding that ASCT offers high responses rates to patients with multiple myeloma refractory to initial induction therapy. This group of patients may well account for the improved overall survival seen in the Intergroupe Francophone du Myelome (IFM)[17] and Medical Research Council (MRC)[18] randomized trials but not the Programa para el Tratamiento de Hemopatas Malignas (PETHEMA) trial.[20]

Controversy still surrounds the role of tandem ASCT. The original rationale for tandem ASCT was improved CR rates resulting in improved overall survival. The IFM94 trial did not show a significant difference in CR rates, but did show improved event-free and overall survival rates.[21] Both the IFM94 and the Bologna 96[22] trials show that tandem ASCT is beneficial to patients who did not achieve CR or near CR following the first transplant. Patients in CR or near CR following the first transplant did not appear to benefit from the second transplant. The survival advantage in the IFM94 trial did not emerge in the tandem transplant arm until 4 years' follow-up, at which time the survival curves diverged. Hari and colleagues appropriately point out that the difference in survival may not be due to improved CR rates, but rather, may be due to improved duration of response. This observation raises the question of whether low-risk patients are the patients most likely to benefit from an aggressive approach and runs counter to conventional wisdom, which advocates tailoring therapy according to prognostic variables in order to minimize toxicity for low-risk patients.

We agree with the recommendation that tandem transplantation should be considered primarily in patients who have not achieved a CR or near CR with the first transplant. Of note, there are no randomized trials comparing planned upfront tandem ASCT to single ASCT with salvage transplant at relapse—an approach that has been widely adopted in clinical practice.

Allogeneic Transplantation

Allogeneic transplant is offered to select patients with multiple myeloma. It is not widely applicable due to the advanced age of most patients with the disease, concerns about acute and late toxicity, and lack of available donors. Nonmyeloablative stem cell transplant can be used alone or in tandem following ASCT.[23] Studies show low early transplant-related mortality. However, the 1-year transplant-related mortality for most studies ranges from 15% to 40%. Furthermore, none of the published trials show a plateau in survival curves, and relapse accounts for the major source of mortality. Well-designed clinical trials are need to clarify the role of nonmyeloablative stem cell transplant in the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Conventional myeloablative allogeneic transplant has been shown to have a plateau in progression-free survival in the US Intergroup and European Bone Marrow Transplant (EBMT) trials.[19] Transplant-related mortality with myeloablative allogeneic transplant has decreased significantly. We agree that there may still be a role for this modality in select patients.

Future Directions

Significant progress has been made in the treatment of multiple myeloma in recent years. However, significant challenges remain. Transplantation offers a meaningful adjunct to new therapies. We look forward to new advances in stem cell mobilization, conditioning regimens, and posttransplant maintenance that will improve care for patients with multiple myeloma. With improved understanding of the underlying biology of the disease, we anticipate further advances in risk-adapted and molecularly targeted therapies.

—Martha Q. Lacy, MD
—S. Vincent Rajkumar, MD

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References

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22. Cavo M, Cellini C, Zamagni E, et al: Superiority of double over single autologous stem cell transplantation as first-line therapy for multiple myeloma (abstract 536). Blood 104:155a, 2004.

23. Maloney DG, Molina AJ, Sahebi F, et al: Allografting with nonmyeloablative conditioning following cytoreductive autografts for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma. Blood 102:3447-3454, 2003.

 
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