High-dose therapy is an effective standard treatment for multiple myeloma patients. Evidence that intermediate-dose therapy improves survival is limited. At diagnosis, about 70% of patients are older than 65. Intermediate-dose regimen is very well tolerated in older patients. In a multicenter study, 194 patients were randomized to receive at diagnosis either conventional chemotherapy (6 courses of oral melphalan and prednisone [MP]) or intermediate-dose therapy (2 courses of melphalan at 100 mg/m2 [MEL100]) with stem cell support. Response rate was higher after MEL100. Near-complete remission (nCR) was 6% after MP and 25% after MEL100 (P = .0002). At 3 years, MEL100 increased event-free survival (EFS) from 16% to 37% and overall survival (OS) from 62% to 77% (P <.001). Similar results were observed in patients aged 65 to 70: nCR was 8% after MP and 25% after MEL100 (P = .05); at 3 years, MEL100 improved EFS from 18% to 31% (P = .01) and OS from 58% to 73% (P = .01). Patients aged 65 to 70 had a median OS of 37.2 months (MP) versus 58 months (MEL100). Intermediate-dose melphalan improves response rate, EFS, and OS in myeloma patients, specifically in those aged 65 to 70. It constitutes a more effective first-line regimen than standard treatment for elderly patients.
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