Combination Therapy Puts Multiple Myeloma Patient Back on Course

 Paul Voss, DDS
At first, Paul Voss, DDS, was nervous about coming to a new place for his treatment. He credits the staff, including patient navigator Anne Kelly (left) and collaborative nurse, Maria Gamez, BSN, RN, (right) with helping him adjust. "I am not just a number; I feel comfortable and at home here," he said.

Thanks to a new three-medication therapy for multiple myeloma, retired dentist Paul Voss is feeling good and looking forward to playing many more rounds of golf.

Voss, 74, of Montague, Mich., started on the therapy as part of a multi-center clinical trial led by Andrzej J. Jakubowiak, MD, PhD, director of the multiple myeloma program at the University of Chicago Medicine and an internationally recognized authority on the disease.

Andrzej J. Jakubowiak and Paul Voss Voss, left, meets with Andrzej J. Jakubowiak, MD, PhD, right, director of the multiple myeloma program.

Multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer, originates in plasma cells -- white blood cells found in the bone marrow that produce antibodies for fighting infection. The American Cancer Society estimates that close to 22,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with the disease in 2012. While multiple myeloma is considered incurable, outcomes have improved dramatically in recent years due to the availability of new drugs and innovative combinations of therapeutics.

"It’s Dr. Jakubowiak’s reputation and the fact that he is on the leading edge of multiple myeloma treatment that brings me to Chicago for my continuing care," Voss said.

The recently approved three-drug regimen combines the investigational drug carfilzomib with two standard chemotherapies, lenalidomide and low-dose dexamethasone. Jakubowiak and his fellow researchers found that most patients responded quickly to the combination and continued to improve with additional treatment. Patients tolerated the therapy well and reported few side effects. The side effect that typically interferes with long-term multiple myeloma treatment -- peripheral neuropathy (numbness or tingling of the fingers and toes that can become painful) -- was infrequent and mild. More than 90 percent of patients had no advancement of their disease at two years.

"The response rates were higher than those achieved by the best established protocols for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma," Jakubowiak said. He believes the sustained response to the treatment may predict prolonged remission and potentially, longer overall survival.

Paul Voss golfing Voss at home in Michigan.

Before coming to the University of Chicago in October 2011, Jakubowiak was director of the multiple myeloma program at the University of Michigan. Voss enrolled in the trial and completed the 24-month therapy there. He decided to follow his physician to Chicago, even though it means driving 3 ½ hours for his appointments.

"I still have the disease but it is under control," Voss said. Now on a maintenance protocol of lenalidomide, Voss is participating in a follow-up study. He has his blood checked weekly by an oncologist near his home in Michigan and comes to Chicago for an appointment every three months.

"It’s Dr. Jakubowiak’s reputation and the fact that he is on the leading edge of multiple myeloma treatment that brings me to Chicago for my continuing care," Voss said. "And, I just really like the guy."

November 2012