Tom Brokaw's Remarkable Multiple Myeloma Journey
- Legendary journalist Tom Brokaw, after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2013, has dedicated his time to raising awareness about the incurable but treatable disease.
- Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bone marrow, with symptoms that can include weakness, bone pain, muscle cramps, and frequent infections.
- Brokaw received the groundbreaking treatment Revlimid (or lenalidomide), used to kill myeloma cells in newly diagnosed patients.
- Our expert says Revlimid is then used as maintenance therapy to help keep the immune system on high alert if the cancer starts to come back.
- Brokaw’s strength and determination — at work and in the face of cancer — have inspired others to live the same way.
“I just want to stay vertical,” Brokaw told SurvivorNet of wanting to continue living a full life.
Tom Brokaw’s Multiple MyelomaRead More
Brokaw has told NBC News that he didn’t want this diagnosis, and its treatment, to hold him back from the life he wanted to keep living. “Bring it on,” he said.
Brokaw has been a vocal advocate for cancer research and awareness since his diagnosis. His treatment for multiple myeloma included a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, while radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. A stem cell transplant involves replacing damaged bone marrow with healthy stem cells to help the body produce new blood cells.
While Brokaw admitted that his treatment was “brutal,” he remained optimistic about his prognosis. He continued to work for NBC News after his diagnosis for seven years, officially retiring at the age of 80 in 2021.
Groundbreaking Cancer Treatment for Multiple Myeloma
During the Brokaw told SurvivorNet his chemotherapy included Revlimid (or lenalidomide), a groundbreaking pill that has helped transform the treatment of multiple myeloma. Standard doses of lenalidomide, in combination with other therapies, is used to kill myeloma cells in newly diagnosed patients.
READ: The Revolution in Multiple Myeloma Treatment
Then, low doses of Revlimid are used as maintenance therapy, which means it helps keep the immune system vigilant to target the myeloma in case it comes back.
“The Revlimid thing for me has been … no side effects whatsoever,” Brokaw told SurvivorNet. “I think that I’m doing as well as I am in part because of Revlimid. I’ve been very fortunate, of course, in not having a reaction to a lot of the very powerful drugs that I am taking … my bomb is Revlimid on a daily basis.”
Dr. Paul Richardson, director of clinical research at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center in Boston told SurvivorNet that the use of maintenance therapy with Revlimid has been shown to improve outcomes for patients with multiple myeloma.
“What we’re realizing is that lenalidomide (Revlimid) is really conferring tremendous clinical benefit by virtue of its continuous use, and it’s impacting on survival and progression-free survival in a remarkably substantial fashion,” he said. “If you look at the most recent meta analysis of clinical benefit from lenalidomide, you’re seeing survival gains of two and 1/2 to three years as a median by virtue of its use.
“And that’s not progression-free survival, that’s overall survival,” Dr. Richard added.
READ: I’m Able to Be Here For More Milestones — One Cancer Survivor’s Incredible Story
Brokaw’s experience with Revlimid as maintenance therapy is a testament to the importance of ongoing treatment and management of multiple myeloma. While the disease may not be curable, maintenance therapy can help patients maintain a good quality of life and keep the disease under control for longer periods of time.
However, Brokaw recognized that not everyone is able to afford the expensive drug and has called for ways to make life-changing healthcare affordable for everyone.
“How do we deal with this as a culture?” he said. “Not the politics of it, but as a culture. We have the ability to do it; we have the greatest resources in the world. Let’s figure out how we can make it cost effective, how we can have a true testing program for efficiency and results, and that people will have access to those results.”
And he has taken proud ownership of his new, prominent role in the multiple myeloma survivor community.
READ: I Lost Five Inches in Height, But I Beat Multiple Myeloma: Anna Quigley’s Story
“When I see people with multiple myeloma, they stop me and I ask them what they’re on? It’s sort of like a club,” said Brokaw, who cares deeply about his fellow travelers on the myeloma journey. He always encourages cancer patients advocate for themselves.
What’s Next for Tom Brokaw?
What’s on Brokaw’s horizon? He would love to continue writing, traveling, and working with multiple myeloma organizations. Basically, he wants to keep living his life.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky and I want to keep going,” he said.
His strength, courage, and determination — both in life and in the face of cancer — have inspired countless others to live the same way.
(Editor’s Note: The medical information and original sourcing in this article have been done exclusively by SurvivorNet staff. All content has been fact checked exhaustively. Some artificial intelligence tools have been used in the creation of this piece.)
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