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Cancer Health Center

Multiple Myeloma

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Treatment

There are different treatments for multiple myeloma. Talk with your doctor about your options:

Chemotherapy -- drugs that kill cancer cells -- can often slow the progress of the disease when they're used together with other treatments.

Steroid drugs, such as dexamethasone (Decadron) or prednisone, can help destroy the faulty plasma cells. Also, they may lessen the stomach sickness chemotherapy can cause. Usually, they're taken in combination with other standard chemo. 

Some medicines destroy cancer cells and stop the growth of new blood vessels that "feed" cancer cells.  They include:

  • lenalidomide (Revlimid)
  • pomalidomide (Pomalyst)
  • thalidomide (Thalomid)

Other drugs keep cancer cells from dividing and multiplying by stopping proteins from breaking down.   They include:

  • bortezomib  (Velcade )
  • carfilzomib (Kyprolis )

You may need to take more than one of these types of drugs together.

Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells.

A stem cell transplant replaces the cancerous cells with healthy cells. These can come from you, a close relative, or a matched donor. First, you get a high-dose chemotherapy drug. It kills both the cancer and healthy cells in your bone marrow.

After your chemo, you'll get a transplant of stem cells that can help get your bone marrow working right again. These particular stem cells are ones that live in your bone marrow and help make new blood cells.

When you get a stem cell transplant, a donor will supply the new stem cells. You'll need to get on a waiting list to find a donor who's the right match for you, so your body doesn't reject the new cells. Close relatives, such as a brother or sister, are the best chance for a good match. If that doesn't work out, you need to get on a list of potential donations from strangers. Sometimes the best chance for the right stem cells will be from someone who's the same race or ethnicity as you.

Before the transplant, you'll likely get high doses of chemo for about a week or two. You may get side effects like nausea and mouth sores.

When the high-dose chemo is done, you'll start the transplant. You get the new stem cells through an IV. You won't feel any pain from this, and you're awake while it’s happening.

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