Advances in biology and therapy of multiple myeloma.

Sophie Barillé-Nion, Bart Barlogie, Régis Bataille, P. Leif Bergsagel, Joshua Epstein, Robert G. Fenton, Joth Jacobson, W. Michael Kuehl, John Shaughnessy, Guido Tricot

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79 Scopus citations


Even during this past year, further advances have been made in understanding the molecular genetics of the disease, the mechanisms involved in the generation of myeloma-associated bone disease and elucidation of critical signaling pathways as therapeutic targets. New agents (thalidomide, Revimid, Velcade) providing effective salvage therapy for end-stage myeloma, have broadened the therapeutic armamentarium markedly. As evidenced in Section I by Drs. Kuehl and Bergsagel, five recurrent primary translocations resulting from errors in IgH switch recombination during B-cell development in germinal centers involve 11q13 (cyclin D1), 4p16.3 (FGFR3 and MMSET), 6p21 (cyclin D3), 16q23 (c-maf), and 20q11 (mafB), which account for about 40% of all myeloma tumors. Based on gene expression profiling data from two laboratories, the authors propose 5 multiple myeloma (MM) subtypes defined by the expression of translocation oncogenes and cyclins (TC molecular classification of MM) with different prognostic implications. In Section II, Drs. Barillé-Nion and Bataille review new insights into osteoclast activation through the RANK Ligand/OPG and MIP-1 chemokine axes and osteoblast inactivation in the context of recent data on DKK1. The observation that myeloma cells enhance the formation of osteoclasts whose activity or products, in turn, are essential for the survival and growth of myeloma cells forms the basis for a new treatment paradigm aimed at reducing the RANKL/OPG ratio by treatment with RANKL inhibitors and/or MIP inhibitors. In Section III, Dr. Fenton reviews apoptotic pathways as they relate to MM therapy. Defects in the mitochrondrial intrinsic pathway result from imbalances in expression levels of Bcl-2, Bcl-XL and Mcl-1. Mcl-1 is a candidate target gene for rapid induction of apoptosis by flavoperidol. Antisense oglionucleotides (ASO) lead to the rapid induction of caspace activity and apoptosis, which was potentiated by dexamethasone. Similar clinical trials with Bcl-2 ASO molecules alone and in combination with doxorubicin and dexamethasone or thalidomide showed promising results. The extrinsic pathway can be activated upon binding of the ligand TRAIL. OPG, released by osteoblasts and other stromal cells, can act as a decoy receptor for TRAIL, thereby blocking its apoptosis-inducing activity. MM cells inhibit OPG release by stromal cells, thereby promoting osteoclast activation and lytic bone disease (by enhancing RANKL availability) while at the same time exposing themselves to higher levels of ambient TRAIL. Thus, as a recurring theme, the relative levels of pro- versus anti-apoptotic molecules that act in a cell autonomous manner or in the milieu of the bone marrow microenvironment determine the outcome of potentially lethal signals. In Section IV, Dr. Barlogie and colleagues review data on single and tandem autotransplants for newly diagnosed myeloma. CR rates of 60%-70% can be reached with tandem transplants extending median survival to approximately 7 years. Dose adjustments of melphalan in the setting of renal failure and age > 70 may be required to reduce mucositis and other toxicities in such patients, especially in the context of amyloidosis with cardiac involvement. In Total Therapy II the Arkansas group is evaluating the role of added thalidomide in a randomized trial design. While data are still blinded as to the contribution of thalidomide, the overriding adverse importance of cytogenetic abnormalities, previously reported for Total Therapy I, also pertain to this successor trial. In these two-thirds of patients without cytogenetic abnormalities, Total Therapy II effected a doubling of the 4-year EFS estimate from 37% to 75% (P <.0001) and increased the 4-year OS estimate from 63% to 84% (P =.0009). The well-documented graft-vs-MM effect of allotransplants can be more safely examined in the context of non-myeloablative regimens, applied as consolidation after a single autologous transplant with melphalan 200 mg/m(2), have been found to be much better tolerated than standard myeloablative conditioning rege conditioning regimens and yielding promising results even in the high-risk entity of MM with cytogenetic abnormalities. For previously treated patients, the thalidomide congener Revimid and the proteasome inhibitor Velcade both are active in advanced and refractory MM (approximately 30% PR). Gene expression profiling (GEP) has unraveled distinct MM subtypes with different response and survival expectations, can distinguish the presence of or future development of bone disease, and, through serial investigations, can elucidate mechanisms of actions of new agents also in the context of the bone marrow microenvironment. By providing prognostically relevant distinction of MM subgroups, GEP should aid in the development of individualized treatment for MM.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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