Where we were, where we are, where we are going: progress in multiple myeloma

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35 Scopus citations


The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of Clinical Oncology provides the occasion to review the progress that has been made in the biology and treatment of multiple myeloma. With the advent of melphalan and cyclophosphamide in the early 1960s the median survival of patients with multiple myeloma more than doubled from 10 months to approximately 24 months. Throughout multiple clinical trials in the 1970s and 1980s, melphalan and prednisone remained the gold standard, with a 3-year survival of 42%. The use of high-dose melphalan with autologous hematopoietic stem cell support provided an incremental advance in the 1990s. The outlook for patients was dramatically improved in the 2000s with the introduction of thalidomide analogs and proteasome inhibitors, so that the 3-year survival of patients treated in 2008 with melphalan and prednisone had increased to 66%. The 2010s are dominated by studying the optimal combination, sequence, and duration of therapies. These clinical advances have occurred along with our evolving understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of myeloma. Myeloma can be divided into two main groups: hyperdiploid, with multiple trisomies of odd-numbered chromosomes, and nonhyperdiploid, with recurrent immunoglobulin heavy chain gene translocations. Disease progression is associated with rearrangements of MYC, the most common mutation in myeloma, present in nearly half of patients. Genomic studies have highlighted marked subclonal heterogeneity that poses one of the main challenges to successful control of the disease. This problem will be addressed in future studies in the 2020s, which will include a focus on immunologic approaches such as monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors, engineered T-cells, and novel immunomodulators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-203
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Society of Clinical Oncology educational book / ASCO. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Meeting
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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