Saturday, October 08, 2005

More Options, More Hope for Blood Cancer Patients

(MF) – After 25 years working with cancer patients, 63-year-old oncology nurse Barbara Stevens knew how scary a diagnosis could be. The grandmother of 10 underwent back surgery to stabilize a fracture, but was still experiencing painful muscle spasms after the operation. When x-rays showed additional fractures in her spine, doctors ordered additional blood tests. Stevens was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the second most common cancer of the blood.

Multiple myeloma affects an estimated 50,000 Americans, with approximately 15,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The cancer attacks plasma cells, or white blood cells, primarily in bone marrow - which can damage the immune system’s ability to fight against infection and disease. Myeloma tumors can also spread to multiple sites, causing bone destruction and fractures. Like Stevens’ case, the disease is often discovered by chance and is not noticed until it has reached an advanced stage.

“Despite advances in treatment, only 30 percent of patients with advanced multiple myeloma typically live for more than five years after diagnosis,” said Dr. Paul Richardson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “So it’s important for patients to have access to new medicines.”

Richardson is a leading investigator for new multiple myeloma treatment options. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, led by Richardson, shows multiple myeloma patients treated with Velcade had a better chance at survival compared to patients who used the standard treatment.

“Velcade has been shown to significantly increase chances for survival when compared to standard therapy, showing great promise for improving patient outcomes,” Richardson said.

The study also shows that Velcade slowed the progress of the disease longer than the standard treatment and more patients responded better. Some patients whose cancer still progressed with radiation and chemotherapy saw their conditions improve after treatment. Clinical trials are underway to further evaluate the medicine’s potential with multiple myeloma and other cancers.

Now on Velcade, with her multiple myeloma in remission, Stevens fights against cancer as a mentor for newly diagnosed patients.

“I am doing well and I want to give hope to others when the initial diagnosis is scary,” she said.

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On the Net:
Velcade site: http://www.millennium.com/products/velcade/index.asp

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