Understanding Multiple Myeloma: Induction Therapy
There are different types of drugs used to treat myeloma. You may receive a combination of drugs. Each kind of drug destroys cancer cells in a different way:
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatment (usually called “chemo”) uses medicines that prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. Chemotherapy medicines do this by destroying cancer cells altogether or preventing them from dividing. Chemo affects your whole body because it goes through your bloodstream. Chemo doesn’t refer to one treatment but many, because there are lots of different chemotherapy medicines.
Targeted therapy: Targeted therapies are a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells with less harm to normal cells. The “targets” used to identify the cancer cells can be specific genes, proteins, or other factors. Targeted therapies may block the action of these certain proteins or enzymes involved in the growth of cancer cells or help the body’s own immune system recognize and kill cancer cells.
Examples of targeted therapies approved to treat multiple myeloma include:
Monoclonal antibody: Given by IV infusion, the substance attaches to the cells and helps your body’s immune system kill the multiple myeloma cells. Monoclonal antibodies are a form of immunotherapy, a type of targeted therapy. Two monoclonal antibodies have been approved by the FDA to treat relapsed multiple myeloma—elotuzumab and daratumumab. Others are currently being investigated in clinical trials.
If you have any of these drugs, they can be given by mouth or through a vein (IV). The treatment can take place in an outpatient clinic, in your doctor’s office, or even at home. Sometimes people need to stay in the hospital for treatment.
Side effects from cancer drugs depend on which drugs are given and how much. Some common side effects include:
Blood cells: As the drug destroys myeloma cells, it can also destroy healthy blood cells. This makes you more likely to get infections and to bruise or bleed easily. You may feel weak and tired. There are also medicines that can help your body make new blood cells.
Cells that line your digestive tract: Chemotherapy and targeted therapy can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or mouth and lip sores. There are medicines that can help reduce your side effects.
Drugs used for myeloma can also cause:
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
- Low blood pressure
Most of these side effects will go away when treatment ends.
You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having induction therapy:
- Which drugs will I get? What will the treatment do?
- When will treatment start? When will it end? How often will I have treatments?
- Where will I go for treatment? Will I have to stay in the hospital?
- Will I have side effects during treatment? What side effects should I tell you about? Can I prevent or treat any of these side effects?
- Will there be lasting side effects? How long will they last? What can I do about them?
- How often will I need checkups?