, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 829-850
Date: 18 Nov 2012

Treatment Strategies in Elderly Patients with Multiple Myeloma

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Multiple myeloma (MM), a plasma cell malignancy, is a disorder of the elderly with an increasing prevalence as the average life expectancy increases. Survival remains unacceptably low in elderly patients with MM, in whom the gold standard of treatment has been, until recently, oral melphalan and prednisolone, which induces a response rate of approximately 50% and overall survival of <3 years. In the last 15 years, traditional treatment paradigms for elderly patients with MM have been challenged not only as a result of the change in what we define as ‘elderly’ but also as a result of the reduced morbidity and treatment-related mortality associated with high-dose chemoradiotherapy (HDT) and autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT), and the emergence of novel therapies including thalidomide, its immunomodulator drug derivative lenalidomide and the first-in-class proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib. In this review, we examine currently available data regarding the treatment of MM in the elderly population. Recent years have seen a paradigm shift in the standard of care of elderly patients with MM from oral melphalan and prednisolone to approaches including HDT with ASCT using intermediate-dose melphalan in selected elderly patients, and the evaluation of and incorporation of drugs such as thalidomide, bortezomib and lenalidomide. Importantly, we now have been able to change the traditional goal of palliation in the elderly group of patients to a more ambitious objective of achieving a complete response or a near complete response, in the hope that this will translate into improved progression-free survival, overall survival and quality of life.