Background: Patients with multiple myeloma (MM) can present with life threatening complications including lethal infections during the disease course. The mortality is high during the early period following diagnosis, mostly as a result of complications of the disease or treatment. It is not clear if we can identify patients at the highest risk of early death based on the presenting clinical and laboratory features.
Methods: From among 1545 patients seen at our institution between Jan 1999 and Dec 2008, we identified 265 patients who died within 12 months of diagnosis. For each of these patients we identified two “controls” who had at least 12 months of follow up, were alive at the time of last follow up and were closest to the ‘case’ patient in terms of time of diagnosis. We performed logistic regression using the clinical and laboratory features, to identify parameters that predict for 12-month mortality and to determine the best cutoffs.
Results: This study included 265 patients as cases and 530 controls. The gender distribution was similar in the two groups. We examined the impact of age, performance status (PS), hemoglobin, platelets, serum creatinine, calcium, LDH, albumin, B2M, free light chain difference, plasma cell labeling index, ISS stage, risk category and exposure to novel agents upfront. Based on the results of univariate and then multivariate analysis – age> 72, ECOG PS>2, Calcium >11.3 and ISS stage 3 were found to be significant. We developed the risk score using 1 point for each adverse factor, Age> 72, PS > 2, ISS 3, and Calcium > 11.3. The odds ratio of patients dying in the first year was 2.7, 9.2 and 37 in the presence of one, two and three or more risk factors compared to none of the risk factors. We then looked at the impact of the initial therapy on outcome. 279 patients (35%) received one of the novel agents (thalidomide, lenalidomide or bortezomib) as initial therapy. The odds ratio for dying in the first year was 0.35 for patients receiving a novel agent compared to the rest. The impact of the novel agent was independent of the risk score, with the risk score predicting outcome in both groups.
Conclusions: In newly diagnosed MM advanced age, poor performance status, ISS stage and high calcium were associated with early mortality. If eligible all patients should get the benefit of use of novel agent upfront. Identifying these patients at the time of diagnosis is important and should help develop better risk-adapted strategies.