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What Is the Relationship between Dexamethasone and Myeloma?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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The relationship between dexamethasone and myeloma is that dexamethasone is often used as a single treatment or as part of a combination treatment for the condition. Studies have shown that steroid treatments increase the effects of ordinary chemotherapy drugs. This has lead to drugs such as dexamethasone being used in combination with other treatments such as thalidomide. High doses of dexamethasone taken alone can actually kill myeloma cells, and it is considered the most effective single treatment for the condition. The main action of the drug also reduces swelling around tumors and thereby relieves pain.

Some of the pain associated with myeloma can be combated through use of steroid treatments. Dexamethasone is a synthetic adrenocortical steroid, which means it is a man-made form of steroids produced naturally by the adrenal glands. Part of the main action of the drug is to inhibit the action of cytokines, which control inflammation within the body. In patients with myeloma, areas of concentrated myeloma cells are often swollen and inflamed. By stopping the cytokines, dexamethasone reduces the swelling and decreases the pain associated with the myeloma.

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Dexamethasone and myeloma are connected because the drug can treat the condition at high doses. The International Myeloma Foundation has identified dexamethasone as the most effective single treatment for the condition. Studies have confirmed that patients taking a high dose of the drug for myeloma survive for a full year 86 percent of the time. Sometimes, the drug can also cause the myeloma to go into remission. The only issue with treatment in this way is the increased risk side effects.

The relationship between dexamethasone and myeloma means that it is often used as part of a combination treatment. Research has shown that steroid treatments can actually increase the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic drugs. This enables the other drugs to kill more cancer cells than they would be able to if taken alone. Dexamethasone and myeloma are connected because the drug is included in both singular and combination treatments for the condition.

Research has looked into the effects on myeloma of smaller doses of dexamethasone in combination with other drugs. After one year, patients taking lower doses of the drug in combination with another treatment survive around 96 percent of the time. The lower dose would reduce the risk of side effects related to dexamethasone and myeloma. Positive findings like this challenge the commonly held view that cancer should be treated with the maximum tolerable dose of the drug.

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