January 28, 2023

Patients with an incurable type of blood cancer will live longer and healthier lives thanks to a three-drug treatment which can be taken at home.

NHS spending watchdogs last week approved a combination of medicines designed to combat a form of the disease called multiple myeloma. It will be given to those who have failed to respond to other treatments.

Experts say the new combination of drugs is more convenient for patients as they come as pills which can be taken without medical supervision.

At most, patients will have to take three tablets a day.

NHS spending watchdogs last week approved a combination of medicines designed to combat a form of the disease called multiple myeloma (stock photo)

Nearly 6,000 Britons are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every year, and 1,500 die.

The disease affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow.

The first symptoms are often persistent bone pain, usually in the back, ribs or hips, as well as weight loss, repeated infections, shortness of breath and tiredness.

The disease can be slowed through treatment, but most cases cannot be cured.

Only a third of multiple myeloma patients will survive for ten years or more after diagnosis. Patients are typically first given chemotherapy, sometimes alongside drugs capable of killing the cancerous cells. However, in many cases, these treatments fail to slow the cancer’s advance.

Experts say there are currently very few effective medications available for these patients.

The new treatment, a combination of the drugs ixazomib, lenalidomide and dexamethasone, interferes with the growth of cancer cells, delaying the disease’s progress.

Studies show the medicines can increase survival time by ten months and extends how long patients spend cancer-free in remission by around six months. Patients will take the pills until they are no longer effective.

Around 1,000 Britons are expected to benefit from the treatment each year.

Shelagh McKinlay, director of research and advocacy at charity Myeloma UK, described the treatment as a ‘game-changer’.

She says: ‘Not only does it increase average survival and extend remission, but it gives patients something they could only have dreamed of just a few years ago: a life that doesn’t revolve around weekly hospital appointments.’