(Editor's note: Check back on TheStreet.com this weekend for more coverage of the ASCO meeting.)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Thalidomide increases a patient's chance of achieving multiple myeloma remission when combined with standard drug therapy, according to research released at this week's meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The drug, known by the
brand name Thalomid, also reduces the risk of recurrence when added to standard treatment, researchers reported.
"The results are better than anything published to date, and show that myeloma does not have to be a death sentence, said Dr. Bart Barlogie, director of the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy at the University of Arkansas and lead author of the study.
In a study of 668 patients with multiple myeloma treated with several rounds of chemotherapy and stem-cell transplantation, 62% of those receiving thalidomide achieved complete remission, compared with 43% of those whose treatments didn't include the drug.
Multiple myeloma develops when excessively produced blood plasma clumps together to form multiple tumors in the bone marrow and elsewhere in the body.
Thalidomide has been available since its release in 1957 in the former West Germany. In 1962, the drug was banned after it was found to have caused birth defects when used by pregnant women to fight morning sickness. The drug had stopped blood vessels from forming in fetuses during the first trimester.
In 1998, thalidomide was approved in the U.S. for inflammation and complications related to leprosy. The drug is currently being used off-label for its ability to stop new blood vessel growth in cancerous tumors.