Treatment Advancements Giving Hope for Patients
- Congressman Steve Scalise, 57, revealed he’s undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma. The rare type of blood cancer is the same type of cancer veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, 83, was diagnosed with back in 2013.
- For multiple myeloma patients like Brokaw, advancements in treatment have allowed them to live more comfortable lives with maintenance therapy despite being diagnosed with the chronic and incurable disease.
- A wave of advancements in multiple myeloma treatments has improved the lives of patients battling the disease in recent years.
- SurvivorNet introduces impacted patients and their families to treatment options such as Darzalex, (daratumumab) which is a “monoclonal antibody,” that essentially summons the body’s own immune system to attack the cancerous cells.
- One such treatment option used by Brokaw includes the chemotherapy drug treatment Revlimid (generic name lenalidomide) which helps manage symptoms for longer periods. Treatment options should be further discussed with your doctor.
- Multiple myeloma hinders the body’s ability to fight infections. It can cause weakness, dizziness, bone pain, and confusion among other symptoms.
Top Congressman Steve Scalise, 57, revealed he’s undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a rare type of blood cancer. However, concerns surrounding his cancer can be put at ease if we heed the lessons learned from veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, 83, who was also diagnosed with multiple myeloma which is highly treatable.
“After a few days of not feeling like myself this past week, I had some blood work done. The results uncovered some irregularities and after undergoing additional tests, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a very treatable blood cancer,” Scalise wrote on the social media platform “X” formerly known as Twitter.
After a few days of not feeling like myself this past week, I had some blood work done. The results uncovered some irregularities and after undergoing additional tests, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a very treatable blood cancer.Read MoreI have now begun treatment, which will… — Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) August 29, 2023
Scalise has been a Louisiana Congressman since 2008 and is currently the House Majority Leader. This revelation comes at the onset of Blood Cancer Awareness Month which begins in September. Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that develops when white blood cells called plasma cells in your bone marrow grow out of proportion to healthy cells. The abnormal cells leave less room for healthy blood cells your body needs to fight infection.
Multiple myeloma can cause symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, bone pain, and confusion among other symptoms.
These symptoms are familiar to Brokaw, a long-time journalist whose career spanned 55 years. He too was diagnosed with this cancer in 2013. Although he boldly and bravely faced his cancer journey, he admitted it took a toll on him.
“I’ve had a bad experience,” Brokaw previously said on “CBS Sunday Morning.”
“I kept thinking bad things wouldn’t happen to me. But as I grew older, I began to develop this condition. And what you try to do is control it as much as you can,” he adds.
Despite the impact cancer had on him personally and professionally, he kept reporting the news until January 2021. Similarly, Scalise said in his social media post, that he is determined to work through treatment. He noted his undisclosed treatment regimen will last for several months.
“I am incredibly grateful we were able to detect this early and that this cancer is treatable…I will tackle this with the same strength and energy as I have tacked past challenges,” Scalise continued.
More Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma patients’ individual risk levels vary according to experts. Some patients have a standard risk which is characterized by extra copies of the chromosomes. Meanwhile, other patients are high-risk which is characterized by a missing part of chromosome number 17.
These gene differences control how aggressive the cancer cells are. Standard risk has “a better prognosis” whereas high-risk myeloma “confers a much poorer outcome,” according to Dr. Kenneth Anderson, Director of the Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The Breakthrough Treatment that Gave Brokaw Added Hope
SurvivorNet previously spoke with the beloved journalist about his diagnosis and the treatment he underwent, which included chemotherapy.
Brokaw received Revlimid (generic name lenalidomide), a breakthrough oral medication that has helped treat patients living with multiple myeloma. Standard doses of lenalidomide, in combination with other therapies, helped kill off myeloma cells.
Low doses of Revlimid are then used as maintenance therapy to help keep the immune system on guard to target the myeloma in case it reappears within the body.
“The Revlimid thing for me has been no side effects whatsoever,” Brokaw told SurvivorNet.
WATCH: Veteran journalist Tom Brokaw shares his experience after cancer treatment.
“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,” Brokaw continued.
The new treatment is a treatment option that gives multiple myeloma patients much-needed hope.
“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. Paul Richardson, director of clinical research at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center previously told SurvivorNet.
“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,” Dr. Richardson added.
Brokaw’s experience with Revlimid as maintenance therapy highlights the value of ongoing treatment and management of multiple myeloma. Brokaw continues to live a fruitful life a decade after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. While the disease does not have a cure, maintenance therapy helps patients maintain a good quality of life by keeping the disease under control for longer periods.
Other Treatment Options for Multiple Myeloma Patients
According to research, the drug daratumumab, which traditionally has been used in later stages of treatment for multiple myeloma, is an effective treatment for multiple myeloma in earlier stages. The drug is also known by its brand name, Darzalex, (daratumumab) is a “monoclonal antibody,” which works by binding to a specific protein on the surface of multiple myeloma cells called CD38. When this happens, the drug essentially summons the body’s own immune system to attack the cancerous cells.
Questions for Your Doctor
If you are facing a multiple myeloma diagnosis, and are interested in a treatment option that Tom Brokaw successfully used, here are some questions to help you begin the conversation with your doctor:
- What stage is my multiple myeloma?
- What are my treatment options?
- Am I a good candidate for Revlimid?
- What are the possible side effects of your recommended treatment?
- Who will be part of my healthcare team, and what does each member do?
- Can you refer me to a social worker or psychologist who can help me cope with my diagnosis?