The first medical descriptions of myeloma date back the 1840s. By the early 1900s, the role of plasma cells in the development of myeloma had been described and X-rays were being used to find areas of bone involvement (lytic lesions). It was not until 1962 that the first modern treatment of myeloma, the chemotherapy drug melphalan, was available. The use of this drug together with prednisone was first described by Dr. Daniel Bergsagel from the University of Toronto. For decades, melphalan and the steroid prednisone (the “MP” regimen) were the only available treatments for myeloma.
In the 1970s, various combinations of chemotherapy agents were developed, such as VAD (vincristine, Adriamycin® and dexamethasone). Bone marrow transplants for myeloma patients began in the 1980s. It was not until 1996, however, that a randomized controlled trial was able to show a clear benefit for high dose therapy and bone marrow transplant.
Research has been able to increase both our understanding of the genetics of myeloma and the underlying disease process. This has resulted in the development of new approaches to treating myeloma and new therapies.
For decades, only a very small number of therapies were available for myeloma. Today, the treatment of myeloma has entered a new and exciting phase. Research into the underlying cellular and biochemical processes of the disease is making possible a variety of innovative therapies.
Although there is still no absolute “cure” for myeloma, a growing number of patients with active myeloma are living ten or more years after diagnosis. We are also getting better at treating the complications of myeloma, giving people with the disease the best possible quality of life for the longest time possible.
There are ongoing developments in the treatment and management of myeloma. Your medical team is there to keep you abreast of research and clinical trials and assist you in your decision making.
Myeloma Canada is affiliated with the International Myeloma Foundation, the world's oldest and largest myeloma organization
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