The combination of oral melphalan and dexamethasone is considered standard therapy for patients with light-chain amyloidosis ineligible for autologous stem cell transplantation. However, previous trials reported different rates of response and survival, mainly because of the different proportions of high-risk patients. In the present study, including a total of 259 subjects, we treated 119 patients with full-dose melphalan and dexamethasone (dexamethasone 40 mg days 1-4), and 140 patients with advanced cardiac disease with an attenuated dexamethasone schedule (20 mg). Hematologic response rates were 76% in the full-dose group and 51% in the patients receiving the attenuated schedule The corresponding complete response rates were 31% and 12%, respectively. The median survival was 7.4 years in the full-dose group and 20 months in the attenuated-dose group. Use of high-dose dexamethasone, amino-terminal pro-natriuretic peptide type-B >1800 ng/L, a difference between involved and uninvolved free light chains of >180 mg/L, troponin I >0.07 ng/mL, and response to therapy were independent prognostic determinants. In relapsed/refractory subjects bortezomib combinations granted high hematologic response rates (79% and 63%, respectively), proving the most effective rescue treatment after melphalan and dexamethasone. In summary, melphalan plus dexamethasone was highly effective with minimal toxicity, confirming its central role in the treatment of AL amyloidosis. Future randomized trials will clarify whether bortezomib is best used in frontline combination with melphalan and dexamethasone or as rescue treatment.
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