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Summary of Treatments for Multiple Myeloma

Release time:2023/6/21 15:07:44
Author:Huateng Pharma

Currently, there are a variety of drugs available for multiple myeloma, including traditional cytotoxic drugs, immunomodu…

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a common hematologic malignancy. A study published in 2021 showed that MM is the second most prevalent hematologic malignancy after lymphoma, accounting for approximately 10% of hematologic cancers and 0.9% of all cancers worldwide. Despite the introduction of novel immunomodulators and proteasome inhibitors in recent years, MM remains an incurable disease and most patients will inevitably relapse.

Furthermore, the management of patients with refractory and recurrent MM remains a daunting task, mainly due to the emergence of multi-drug resistance. Therefore, new therapeutic agents are urgently needed to address this clinical challenge. In recent years, a large amount of research has been devoted to the discovery of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of MM.

Currently, there are a variety of drugs available for multiple myeloma, including traditional cytotoxic drugs, immunomodulatory analogs, proteasome inhibitors, antibody-based drugs and CAR T-cell therapy.

NameTrade NameApproval TimeType
MelphalanAlkeran 1964Traditional Cytotoxic Drugs
Cisplatin Platinol1978Traditional Cytotoxic Drugs
ThalidomideContergan,Thalomid1998Immunomodulatory   Agents
LenalidomideRevlimid2006Immunomodulatory   Agents
PomalidomidePomalyst 2013Immunomodulatory   Agents
BortezomibVelcade2003Proteasome   Inhibitors
CarfilzomibKyprolis2012Proteasome   Inhibitors
DaratumumabDarzalex 2015Antibody-Based   Drugs
IsatuximabSarclisa2021Antibody-Based   Drugs
Belantamab MafodotinBlenrep2020,   Withdrwan in 2022Antibody-Based   Drugs
Teclistamab-cqyv Tecvayli2022Antibody-Based   Drugs
ldecabtagene vicleucelAbecma2021 CAR T-cell therapy
Ciltacabtagene autoleucelCarvykti2022 CAR T-cell therapy

1. Traditional Cytotoxic Drugs

Cytotoxic drugs are a class of drugs that kill and inhibit proliferating tumor cells, including alkylating agents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, microtubulin inhibitors, etc.

Cisplatin (DDP)

Cisplatin, discovered in 1845 and approved in 1978 by the FDA, is a platinum-containing chemotherapy agent used to treat many types of cancer, including metastatic testicular tumors, metastatic ovarian tumors and advanced bladder cancer. Cisplatin is currently in Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical trials for the treatment of MM, alone or in combination with other therapies.


As an alkylating agent, cisplatin works by interfering with the DNA in cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and growing. Alkylating agents derive their name from their ability to attach alkyl groups to various negatively charged groups within the cell. By forming cross-links between guanine bases in the double helix strand of DNA, they stop tumor growth by attacking the DNA directly. It causes a range of side effects, including nausea, vomiting and kidney damage.



Melphalan, a DNA alkylating antitumor drug approved in 1964 under the trade name Alkeran, is used for high-dose conditioning of MM patients prior to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Melphalan exhibits antitumor activity by forming cross-links between cellular DNA strands, causing interruption of DNA and RNA transcription and inducing cell death. Melphalan is also indicated for the palliative treatment of unresectable epithelial ovarian cancer  and multiple myeloma. Melphalan is usually administered by the intravenous or oral route and is associated with adverse effects, including but not limited to nausea, vomiting, alopecia, and increased susceptibility to infection.

2. Immunomodulatory Agents

The immunomodulatory drugs can regulate cellular immunity and humoral immunity, activate or suppress the immune response, and improve the symptoms caused by immune dysfunction. Immunomodulating drugs such as thalidomide (Thalomid), lenalidomide (Revlimid) and pomalidomide (Pomalyst), are used to treat multiple myeloma and some other types of cancer.



Thalidomide, discovered in 1952, was originally introduced as a non-barbiturate hypnotic agent. However, it was soon withdrawn from the market due to its teratogenic effects. Thirty years later, thalidomide was reintroduced to the market, approved by the FDA in 1998 and marketed under the trade name Thalomid for the treatment of cancer, particularly newly diagnosed MM.

Thalidomide is thought to inhibit cereblon  (CRBN) autoubiquitination and show anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and anti-angiogenic activity by inhibiting and modulating the levels of inflammatory mediators such as TNF-α. Due to the serious teratogenicity of thalidomide, it is important that patients participate in a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program to ensure contraceptive compliance and exclude pregnancy prior to initiating treatment with thalidomide.



As a derivative of thalidomide, lenalidomide was approved by the FDA in 2005 and marketed under the trade name Revlimid for the treatment of MM. Compared to thalidomide, lenalidomide is more effective and safer. Also, lenalidomide has shown less toxicity and adverse effects.

Lenalidomide, also known as CC-5013, has anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. Like thalidomide, lenalidomide is a ligand of ubiquitin E3 ligase cereblon (CRBN), and it causes selective ubiquitination and degradation of two lymphoid transcription factors, IKZF1 and IKZF3, by the CRBN-CRL4 ubiquitin ligase.

In addition, lenalidomide can cause the release of IL-2 from T cells and inhibit the growth of mature B-cell lymphomas (e.g., MM). Due to the serious teratogenic properties of lenalidomide, patients must participate in a REMS program to ensure contraceptive compliance and exclude pregnancy before starting treatment with lenalidomide. The drug is administered orally in capsule form and is often used in combination with other treatment modalities to treat oncologic disease.



Pomalidomide, an analogue of thalidomide, was approved by the FDA in 2013 and marketed under the trade name Pomalyst for the treatment of MM together with dexamethasone.

Pomalidomide was discovered during the structural optimization of lenalidomide and thalidomide, and its inhibitory activity against TNF-α and stimulatory activity against IL-2 are 10 times higher than those of lenalidomide.

In addition, pomalidomide can effectively overcome resistance to bortezomib, thalidomide and lenalidomide. As a third generation immunomodulatory agent, pomalidomide can induce degradation of essential Ikaros transcription factors through interaction with the E3 ligase cereblon. Pomalidomide is usually indicated for patients with MM who have received at least two prior treatments (including lenalidomide) and whose disease progressed at the end of the last treatment or within 60 days.

3. Proteasome Inhibitors

Proteasomes are protein complexes which degrade unneeded or damaged proteins by proteolysis. Proteasome inhibitors are widely used as adjuvant drugs in cancer therapy. In a broad sense, proteasome inhibitors refer to drugs that bind to some group on the active center of the protease molecule, causing a decrease in the activity of the protease or even its disappearance, but not denaturing the enzyme protein.



Bortezomib was discovered in 1995 and approved by the FDA in 2003 for the treatment of patients with MM who have received at least two therapies but failed. It was the first proteasome inhibitor to be approved for the treatment of MM.

As a potent inhibitor of the proteasome, bortezomib (also known as PS-341) significantly inhibits the 20S proteasome by acting on threonine residues, leading to apoptosis and cell cycle disruption. In vivo, bortezomib retards tumor growth in non-clinical tumor models. In vitro, it shows toxic effects on various cancer cell types through dose-dependent inhibition of proteasome activity.

Common side effects of bortezomib include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and low blood counts.



Although bortezomib is a potent proteasome inhibitor with outstanding antitumor activity, its significant toxicity and drug resistance have limited its use. Therefore, researchers have endeavored to develop second-generation proteasome inhibitors with more efficacy, improved safety profile, and more convenient administration methods to expand the scope of antitumor therapy and overcome cancer cell resistance. Carfilzomib was approved by the FDA on July 20, 2012 as a second proteasome inhibitor for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior drugs, including bortezomib and immunomodulator therapy.

Carfilzomib is a specific and irreversible targeted inhibitor originally developed by Proteolix and manufactured by Onyx Pharmaceuticals. Carfilzomib irreversibly binds to and inhibits the chymotrypsin-like activity of the 20S proteasome, an enzyme that degrades unwanted cellular proteins. Carfilzomib displays minimal interactions with non-proteasomal targets, thereby improving safety profiles over bortezomib. Inhibition of proteasome-mediated proteolysis leads to the accumulation of polyubiquitinated proteins, which may lead to cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and inhibition of tumor growth.

Compared to bortezomib, carfilzomib has fewer lesions in the peripheral nervous system, with a grade 3 peripheral neuropathy rate of 1.3% in patients with relapsed refractory multiple myeloma (RRMM), but no patients had grade 4 events, and only 1% of patients required dose adjustment or discontinuation of the drug. Long-term treatment with carfilzomib does not increase the risk of psychosis.

Huateng Pharma, a professional manufacturer of pharmaceutical API and intermediates, provides Carfilzomib key intermediates with capability from grams to kilograms, even tons. 

Carfilzomib Intermediates:  CAS No.: 247068-85-5CAS No.: 868539-96-2CAS NO. 247068-82-2CAS No. 3235-69-6

4. Antibody-Based Drugs

Although the introduction of immunomodulatory agents and proteasome inhibitors has greatly improved the level of treatment for multiple myeloma, many patients still face the risk of relapse and drug resistance. Therefore, myeloma patients need new drugs with more significant efficacy and higher safety profile. Studies have shown that antibody-based drugs are highly selective and have significant safety advantages. In recent years, the development of MM-based antibody-based drugs has been in full swing, such as monoclonal antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and bispecific antibodies.


DARZALEX (daratumumab) first received FDA approval in November 2015 as a monotherapy for patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least three prior lines of therapy. Daratumumab is the first monoclonal antibody marketed for the treatment of MM and has been growing rapidly since its launch in 2015 with the expansion of indications.

Daratumumab is a novel, high-affinity, therapeutic human monoclonal antibody against unique CD38 epitope with broad-spectrum killing activity. It can binds to 2 β strands of CD38 containing amino acids 233–246 and 267–280 and is believed to demonstrate broad spectrum killing activity against CD38-expressing tumor cells by inducing tumor cell death through apoptosis and multiple immune-mediated mechanisms.


Isatuximab (Sarclisa), a CD38-directed cytolytic antibody developed by Sanofi, was approved by the FDA in 2020 for use in patients with relapsed refractory multiple myeloma and subsequently approved by the FDA in 2021 for another indication in combination with carfilzomib and dexamethasone for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma.

Isatuximab (Sarclisa) is an IgG1-derived monoclonal antibody that binds to CD38 expressed on the surface of hematopoietic and tumor cells, including multiple myeloma cells. Sarclisa can induce apoptosis of tumor cells and activation of immune effector mechanisms, including antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC), antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) and complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC).

Belantamab Mafodotin


Belantamab Mafodotin was approved by the FDA on August 6, 2020, as a monotherapy for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory MM who have received at least four prior therapies. On November 22, 2022, GSK announced the market withdrawal of Blenrep following the request of the FDA.

Belantamab mafodotin is the first BCMA-targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) with a humanized anti-BCMA monoclonal antibody (mAb) conjugated to the microtubule inhibitor mafodotin.



TECVAYLI® (teclistamab-cqyv), a bispecific antibody, received approval from the FDA in October 2022 for adult patients with RRMM who have received at least four prior lines of therapy, including a proteasome inhibitor, an immunomodulatory agent and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody.

Teclistamab-cqyv activates the immune system by binding to the cluster of differentiation 3 (CD3) receptor expressed on the surface of T cells and to the B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) expressed on the surface of MM cells and some healthy B-lineage cells.

5. CAR T-cell therapy

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a type of cancer immunotherapy. It helps the body’s own immune system find and attack cancer cells. 

Idecabtagene vicleucel

ABECMA® (idecabtagene vicleucel), a novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy targeting B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), was approved for adult patients with R/R multiple myeloma in March 2021.

Ciltacabtagene autoleucel

Ciltacabtagene autoleucel (CARVYKTI, Janssen Biotech, Inc.) was approved by FDA on February 28, 2022 for the treatment of adult patients with R/R MM after four or more prior lines of therapy, including a proteasome inhibitor, an immunomodulatory agent, and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody.

Ciltacabtagene autoleucel is a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-directed genetically modified autologous chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Each dose is customized using a patient’s own T-cells, which are collected and genetically modified, and infused back into the patient.


In recent years, there are numerous targeted drugs for multiple myeloma (MM) and researchers have made great achievements in treating MM, but most myeloma patients still face the risk of drug resistance and relapse. Fortunately, advances in medical technology have provided patients with more treatment options.

In conclusion, there is still a huge space for MM drug development, and the follow-up should focus on precise treatment and personalized therapy based on the existing research results, and continuously adjust and improve the existing treatment protocols to maximize the benefits for MM patients.

1. Recent advance of small-molecule drugs for clinical treatment of multiple myeloma. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmech.2023.115492
2. Time trends in survival and causes of death in multiple myeloma: a population-based study from Germany, BMC Cancer 23 (2023) 317.
3. Measuring the global, regional, and national burden of multiple myeloma from 1990 to 2019,BMC Cancer 21 (2021) 606.