A drug which may increase the amount of time myeloma patients spend without their condition worsening has been approved by the Health Sciences Authority.
Myeloma is a type of blood cancer in the bone marrow or soft tissue, and patients experience symptoms such as bone pain, kidney failure and anaemia. Myeloma patients typically live another eight to ten years upon diagnosis.
Known as carfilzomib, the drug prolongs the length of time during and after myeloma treatment without the disease worsening from nine months to 18.7 months when used in conjunction with existing drugs.
The approved usage of carfilzomib is a timely one, as there has been an increase in new myeloma cases in Singapore, according to the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS). 39 patients were diagnosed with the disease in 2017, an 80 per cent increase from 22 cases in 2012, a surge that the NCIS attributes to an ageing population and improved myeloma awareness amongst doctors.
“There are some myeloma patients – less than 10 per cent – that, with some of these treatments, have no disease at all for more than ten years. They may well be cured. But this is rare,” said Professor Chng Wee Joo, director of the NCIS.
The NCIS is currently conducting a trial with carfilzomib and two other drugs, in hopes of providing a more affordable alternative to the current range of myeloma treatments.