Other Treatments for Multiple Myeloma

Biologic therapy (immunotherapy) involves using a drug called interferon to reduce the growth of myeloma cells and improve the immune system response. This treatment often is administered to multiple myeloma patients following chemotherapy to help prolong remission (symptom-free time period). Immunotherapy side effects are similar to symptoms of the flu (influenza) and include fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea.

Bisphosphonates may be used to help prevent bone damage in patients with multiple myeloma. These drugs include pamidronate (Aredia) and zoledronic acid (Zometa), which are administered through an IV (intravenously), usually once a month. In rare cases, patients treated with bisphosphonates experience an infection or bone tissue death (called osteonecrosis) in the jaw. Patients who undergo jaw surgery or have a tooth removed while on these medications are at increased risk for this serious complication.

Plasmapheresis can sometimes be used to reduce symptoms in patients with multiple myeloma. In this treatment, blood is removed through a vein and a machine separates blood cells from plasma (which contains M proteins produced by myeloma cells), replaces the plasma with a saline solution or plasma from donors, and returns the blood to the body.

Surgery is not used to treat multiple myeloma. However, in some cases, tumors may be removed surgically to help reduce severe symptoms (e.g., spinal cord compression).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jul 2009

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015