Tag Archive for: NCCN.org

Understanding Relapse in Myeloma

Understanding Relapse in Myeloma  from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are indicators that a myeloma patient has relapsed? Dr. Mark Schroeder explains how relapsed and refractory myeloma are monitored and treated. 

Dr. Mark Schroeder is a hematologist at Siteman Cancer Center of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Schroeder serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Schroeder.

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Katherine Banwell:

What are the indicators that a patient’s disease may have relapsed?  

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

Yeah, so we would typically be following a patient about every three months. Somebody that has gone through the initial induction, consolidation, maybe they’re on maintenance therapy, or maybe they’re on active therapy for after they have relapsed from a myeloma.  

Each of those visits every three months, we are monitoring bloodwork, we’re monitoring the monoclonal protein that the myeloma produces.  

Or if it doesn’t produce much of that protein, we’re monitoring other parameters, so urine testing or maybe even imaging like a PET scan. And we’re looking for consistent rises in that number, and we’re looking for, not necessarily a little rise in the protein, but incremental continuous rise – that suggests that the myeloma is starting to grow again, and it’s growing on the current treatment, and we need to switch gears and try a different treatment. There are some patients who – that protein, the myeloma or the myeloma cancer doesn’t die to treatments – that’s refractory. So, we try a treatment, and there’s just no response. We don’t see a drop in the protein in the blood, we still see a good burden of the myeloma in the bone marrow biopsy. And those patients, that’s also an indication to try a different treatment.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned that myeloma often returns, so how typical is it for a patient to relapse? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

Yeah, I would say that’s the norm for patients with myeloma. There are reports in patients who undergo things like stem cell transplant, that maybe 10 percent of patients might be out 10 years without detection of their myeloma, but that’s not the norm. So, most patients who are diagnosed with myeloma will go through periods of treatment and hopefully periods of remission – the majority go into periods of remission to myeloma where it’s not very active, but the myeloma tends to come back. 

Katherine Banwell:

I think you’ve already answered this, but I’m going to ask you in case you give different or more information. If a person is relapsed or refractory, how are they typically treated? 

Dr. Mark Schroeder:

So, when they relapse, it depends on their prior treatment. So, if the myeloma is not responding to a drug, then it is, from the physician’s perspective that’s treating you, a good idea to change the type of chemotherapy drug that you’re on. Any time, whether it’s diagnosis or relapse, clinical trials are appropriate to engage with and potentially even use as primary treatment. All clinical studies in myeloma or for cancer in general are typically engineered around active treatments for the cancer. And so, those studies in myeloma when you’re having the cancer relapse, say, early in the course of your cancer, those studies typically are geared to use drugs that are approved by the FDA. Later in the lines of treatment, maybe you’ve had to progress after four lines of treatment, but trying to move them earlier, and they’re very active in the fourth line.  

So, you could potentially have access to an active treatment moved earlier in the treatment through a clinical trial. There is also a long list of other approved myeloma therapies. There is a good handout, I think, through the NCCN for patients for myeloma that lists a lot of the approved myeloma therapies and kind of guides patients. It’s a good resource book that I would point any of the listeners to. 

Should Prostate Cancer Patients Consider a Treatment in Clinical Trials?

Should Prostate Cancer Patients Consider a Treatment in Clinical Trials? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer expert Dr. Andrew Armstrong explains how prostate cancer clinical trials work and discusses why patients should feel confident exploring this option at any stage of their cancer journey.

Dr. Andrew J. Armstrong is a medical oncologist and director of clinical research at the Duke Cancer Institute’s Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers. For more information on Dr. Armstrong here.

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Key Questions for Prostate Cancer Patients to Ask Before Joining a Clinical Trial


Katherine Banwell:

At what point should a prostate cancer patient consider participating in a clinical trial? 

Dr. Armstrong:

Sure. If you look at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, NCCN guidelines, you’ll see that clinical trials should be discussed along all parts of the journey. 

And that’s because clinical trials often can change how we think about cancer, how we treat cancer, can improve cure rates, can improve survival. Most of our drugs and treatments that have been successful in all cancer have been the result of clinical trials. 

And it’s not always appropriate, though. We have very many treatments that can cure patients, and we don’t want to interfere with that, but sometimes a clinical trial can layer on top of that cure rate. 

But many patients, their cancer becomes resistant to proven therapies. That’s certainly an area where clinical trials can make a big difference, either to put off chemotherapy or more toxic therapies, or in patients who have exhausted proven therapies. That’s certainly appropriate. 

But sometimes clinical trials do not involve placebos. They involve combination therapies, they involve layering on top several approaches to try to improve the survival on top of standard of care.  

And so as a director of a research program, we have all sorts of trials. They come in Phase I, Phase II, Phase III. Really only the Phase IIIs involve placebo controlled or controlled trials. Phase II tend to be early studies, where everybody gets a therapy and it’s preliminary to determine efficacy. Phase I is really trying to determine the safety and dosing of an experimental drug. But patients can benefit across the spectrum. 

So, it’s important, particularly if you have advanced disease, to go to a site, like a comprehensive cancer center, for a second opinion to see if there is alternatives to what you might get in the community.  

Katherine Banwell:

Yes. What would you say to someone who might be hesitant to participate in a trial? 

Dr. Armstrong:

Participation in a trial involves shared decision-making, just like being diagnosed, embarking on initial treatment, even embarking on standard of care treatment. Everything is shared decision-making in terms of risks and benefits.  

Sometimes a trial is not in a patient’s best interest, and it’s important for a physician to be upright about that and up front about the risks of a trial. 

I think when patients have exhausted proven therapies, it’s quite appropriate to talk about therapies that might be in the research pipeline that are showing some promise, that have demonstrated at least success in the laboratory or in small numbers of patients coming before.  

For example, in 2022, a brand-new drug just got approved called Pluvicto, or PSMA lutetium. This is a new smart bomb for prostate cancer. Just last year it was a research drug, but this year it’s successful and being used in the clinic. All those hormone drugs I mentioned earlier, those were research drugs five years ago. So, we don’t make advanced, we don’t extend lives without participating in research. We’re not happy with the way things are, we want them to be better. 

And the only way to make them better is by studying them. And not all of these trials are successful, unfortunately, but many are, and that’s why we are seeing men live longer and have better survivorship nowadays.