Background: Despite intensive treatment strategies in multiple myeloma (MM) consisting of one or two cycles of high-dose melphalan (HD-Mel) with autologous stem cell support only a minority of patients (pts) achieves molecular complete remission leading to an event free survival (EFS) of eight to ten years. The median EFS for all patients following HD-Mel, however, is no more than 30 to 35 months. Several agents have been evaluated as a part of maintenance strategies in order to eradicate minimal residual disease and thus extending the period until salvage treatment is required. Interferon alpha, that has been most widely used in this setting showed a significant prolongation of EFS and a trend to better overall survival in a large meta-analysis. Bortezomib (VELCADE® [Vel]), a proteasome inhibitor, has substantial anti-myeloma activity in relapsed and refractory disease and was shown to induce exceptional response rates, including consistently high CR rates in up-front treatment.
Patients and methods: We decided to set up a phase II trial in patients up to 70 years with less than CR (SD, PR, or VGPR) after one or two cycles of HD-Mel using a less dose-intense schedule than the standard protocol for monotherapy. The first eleven pts were to receive four cycles of Vel 1.0 mg/m2 once weekly for four weeks followed by a two-week rest period. Since no dose limiting toxicity occurred, the dose was increased as per protocol to 1.3 mg/m2 for the subsequent pts.
Results: Up to now, 20 subjects were included with a median age of 60.5 (range, 46 – 69) years, 3 of whom had previously received single, and 17 tandem HD-Mel. Two cases of moderately severe herpes zoster prompted us to generally administer acyclovir prophylaxis throughout the treatment. Five pts experienced symptoms of peripheral neuropathy all of which were of grade I. WBC nadir occurred during cycles 2 and 3 with a median of 3.7 × 109/l while median PLT and HB values did not decline below normal values. Three patients progressed while on the study and received salvage treatment while all other patients enrolled completed all four scheduled cycles of treatment. To date, two patients showed improvement of response by conversion of VGPR into CR with confirmed negative immunofixation.
Conclusion: We are currently continuing patient accrual on the once-weekly 1.3 mg/m2 schedule since treatment is considered to be safe. Data on the efficacy (i.e. median EFS, OS as compared to historic controls on interferon alpha), however, will require significantly longer follow up.
Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.