Pros and cons of frontline autologous transplant in multiple myeloma: the debate over timing.

The treatment landscape for multiple myeloma has dramatically changed over the past decade with the introduction of several new classes of drugs, which are very effective at controlling the disease for prolonged periods of time, especially when used in multidrug combinations. Prior to the advent of these new agents, peripheral blood autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) was the mainstay of therapy for patients who were eligible to undergo the procedure, with deep and durable responses in the majority of patients. Despite the introduction of more effective therapies, ASCT continues to play an important role in overall management of younger patients, where it has been integrated with the other therapeutic approaches to provide maximum benefit. Recent phase 3 trials have once again confirmed the survival benefit associated with ASCT in myeloma. Retrospective studies have also demonstrated the feasibility of using ASCT at the time of first relapse rather than as a component of the initial treatment. Significant geographical variations exist in the use of ASCT, especially between the United States and Europe in terms of its use as part of upfront therapy. Much of these differences are driven by the availability of drugs and drug combinations for initial therapy of myeloma as well as maintenance approaches post-ASCT. It is amply clear from these trials that ASCT will continue to play an important role in management of myeloma and is likely to be used as a platform for enhancing the efficacy of other treatment modalities that are currently in development.

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