The 3rd annual meeting of AMEN, the Israeli MM foundation, was held this year on May 21st at the Weizmann Institute of Science. 400 people—a record number for those meetings—attended the event; patients and their relatives, physicians and researchers.
All the invited speakers—the President of Weizmann Institute; Prof. Daniel Zeiffman; the Chairman of AMEN, Mrs. Paula Azulai; and the Chairman of the Israeli Hematologists Society, Prof. Ofer Spielberg—stressed the uniqueness of this event. The meeting was held in this prestigious institute as a direct continuation of an unprecedented morning conference on MM, at which pairs of lecturers, physician-scientists, discussed the same issue. These exciting and stimulating dialogues attracted some 200 scientists and hematologists from all over the country.
The main evening lecture was given by the renowned Prof. Paul Richardson from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He dedicated his talk to the significant improvements achieved by the new drugs—Bortezomib (VELCADE®) and Lenalidomide (REVLIMID®)—especially when they are used in combination with other drugs. He described several studies where combinations of three or even four different drugs resulted in higher response rate and longer survival than the current conventional treatment regimes. This applied not only for new patients, but also for more difficult relapse situations.
Prof. Richardson was kind enough to stay for the second part of the evening and answer the audience's questions. He elaborated on the subject of maintenance treatment required during remission periods, usually after autologous transplant. The current treatment is thalidomide, which is widely accepted, but it is quite evident that Velcade is better and most probably will replace it. One of the advantages of Velcade is expected to be in reducing the risk of neuropathy, which under thalidomide treatment is quite common, and irreversible. With Velcade, on the other hand, neuropathy can still develop, but it is reversible. In this context, Prof. Richardson urged the patients who start to develop neuropathy symptoms to report it to their doctor immediately. In such a case the dose of thalidomide will be reduced, or even completely stopped. Lenalidomide is less likely to become a maintenance treatment, especially not after transplant.
Regarding alternative treatments, the lecturer advised caution regarding products originating from unreliable and uncontrolled sources. He strongly recommended consulting the attending physician before taking any additional medication.
Finally, Prof. Richardson recommended that patients who are treated with thalidomide or Lenalidomide should also take a blood-thinning agent like Coumadin, in view of the risk of developing thrombosis.