UAMS Research Reports Improved Survival for Myeloma Patients;
‘Blood’ Article Outlines Benefit of More Intensive Chemotherapy

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A long-term trial on the effectiveness of more intensive chemotherapy during treatment of multiple myeloma, one of the least curable cancers, showed improved remission and overall survival rates, reported a team of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) researchers led by internationally known myeloma researcher Bart Barlogie, M.D., Ph.D.

The research is published in the April 2006 issue of Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology. The article, “Total therapy 2 without thalidomide in comparison with total therapy 1: role of intensified induction and posttransplantation consolidation therapies,” is available online at

A study of 576 myeloma patients showed those who received the more intensive regimen of melphalan-based chemotherapy before and after bone marrow transplants had higher remission and overall survival rates, along with a longer time period with no relapse.

“These results are encouraging as we work to find the most effective treatment for myeloma,” said Barlogie, director of the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy (MIRT), which is part of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center at UAMS. “This trial attests to the validity of a melphalan dose-response effect with myeloma.”

The Blood article follows publication of another Barlogie-led study of the effectiveness of the drug thalidomide in myeloma treatment that appeared in the March 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In that trial, thalidomide showed an ability to improve complete remission and prolong the period with no relapse, but did not improve overall survival rates.

Myeloma is a type of cancer that involves plasma cells – white blood cells that produce antibodies. When plasma cells become cancerous, they reproduce uncontrollably and crowd out healthy red and white blood cells, preventing them from fighting infection and carrying oxygen throughout the body. Bone destruction is a common manifestation of myeloma. The malignant cells also produce a type of protein that can cause kidney failure.

Research led by Barlogie at the MIRT has more than doubled the annual survival rate of a myeloma patient upon diagnosis from three years to seven years and beyond.

Nearly 60 percent of newly diagnosed myeloma patients at the MIRT between 1995 and 2001 survived at least five years compared to about 34 percent of myeloma patients reported to the National Cancer Institute through its SEER program for the same time period.

The myeloma studies were funded by a project program grant from the NCI, which in 2004 announced its third five-year renewal – for nearly $18 million – of grant support for the MIRT. Those funds are earmarked for ongoing translational research at the MIRT, the first facility in the world created specifically to study and treat this rare form of cancer.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with almost 9,000 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.