Guidelines tackle long-term screening, management of myeloma



New guidelines recommend proactively screening for the late-term effects of both myeloma itself and the multiple therapies many patients receive.

“We are entering a watershed period in which patients are expecting to live in excess of 5 to 10 years after a diagnosis of myeloma, and issues of survivorship are becoming increasingly important,” wrote John A. Snowden, MD, of Sheffield (England) Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and his associates on behalf of the UK Myeloma Forum and the British Society for Haematology.

Late effects of myeloma and therapies “constitute a unique syndrome,” the guideline authors emphasized. “Survivorship in myeloma therefore requires specialized screening, coordinated management and multidisciplinary care” (Br J Haematol. 2017 Jan 20. doi: 10.1111/bjh.14514).

A hand is writing myeloma in green letters Hung Kuo Chun/Thinkstock
Infections are a leading cause of mortality in myeloma, and patients know how to recognize them and seek help, the guidelines advised. They discouraged routine prophylactic antibiotic therapy but recommended long-term antiviral prophylaxis against herpes zoster during hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and proteasome-based therapy.

Patients with myeloma should not receive live attenuated vaccines, the guidelines noted. Inactivated vaccinations should be timed to periods of minimal disease and after treatment recovery. The authors recommended influenza and varicella-zoster vaccines for both patients and household contacts. For patients, they also recommended Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine and conjugate pneumococcal vaccine, followed by polysaccharide PPV23 at least 2 months later. They also suggested revaccination after HSCT.

About half of myeloma patients have renal impairment and should undergo routine tests of serum calcium, parathyroid hormone, and vitamin D, the authors stated. Moderate to severe renal impairment, renal-related hyperparathyroidism, and nephrotic syndrome merit specialty referrals, they added. They also advised carefully managing diabetes and hypertension to delay end-stage kidney disease, modifying doses of lenalidomide and bisphosphonate doses in renally impaired patients, avoiding nephrotoxic drugs when possible, and considering erythropoiesis-stimulating agents and iron supplementation for anemia.

Endocrine disorders are also common in myeloma, and the authors recommended annual screening for hypothyroidism, hypogonadism in males, and menopausal symptoms in younger females, especially after HSCT. They emphasized annual measurements of weight, height, body mass index, waist circumference, strength and frailty, blood pressure, HbA1c, and serum lipids, with referral to primary care when needed. For bone loss, they emphasized weight-bearing exercise, bisphosphonates, dietary changes, and calcium and vitamin D supplementation. They recommended specialist input on hormone therapy, if indicated.

Spinal cord or nerve-root compression often accompanies myeloma, and long-term survivors also may have peripheral neuropathy secondary to chemotherapy and other drug treatments, the guidelines noted. They recommended testing thyroid function and vitamin B12 levels, reducing or eliminating neurotoxic agents, offering gabapentin or pregabalin for symptom control, and referring patients to pain specialists and neurologists for peripheral neuropathy beyond grade I. They also advised annual ophthalmic screening because even intermittent high-dose corticosteroid therapy can lead to cataracts.

Cardiopulmonary abnormalities affect about half of myeloma patients and deserve heightened attention, the authors stressed. They recommended routinely screening cardiovascular risk factors, testing natriuretic peptide annually, and performing electrocardiograms, echocardiography, and pulmonary function tests in at-risk patients. They also advised diet, weight control, smoking cessation, physical activity, and specialist referral for patients with established cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.

Bisphosphonates can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, and chemotherapy and other therapies can cause oral dryness. The guidelines emphasized – in addition to monitoring for these adverse outcomes – the importance of oral hygiene, artificial saliva rinses, annual dental exams, and specialty evaluations for nonhealing lesions.

Novel myeloma therapies often cause diarrhea, but chronic diarrhea should be evaluated by a gastroenterologist to rule out malignancies, underlying bowel disease, AL amyloidosis, and bile acid malabsorption, the authors stressed. They also recommended annual assessments of liver function tests, drug and alcohol history, and vitamin D, B12, folate, and ferritin levels. Nutritionists should provide input if patients are losing weight, they added.

Myeloma confers at least eight times the risk of myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia, compared with the general population, the guidelines noted. Second primary malignancies can result from long-term exposure to lenalidomide and to such alkylating agents as melphalan. They advised considering myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia in patients with persistent or worsening cytopenias, investigating symptoms that could indicate other malignancies, participating in cancer screening registries, and developing formal surveillance for second primary malignancies.

Additional recommendations included baseline geriatric assessment in elderly and frail patients; holistic assessments at the start of each line of treatment to pinpoint needs and concerns and to plan support services; and regular assessments of mood, anxiety, and cognitive status, with referrals for therapy, psychiatry, and support groups as needed. The authors also stressed the role of routine holistic needs-assessments to detect and track both pain and fatigue. Therapy should always include prehabilitation and rehabilitation, and clinicians should recommend ongoing regular physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, they emphasized.

To develop the guidelines, the experts searched Medline and the Cochrane databases for literature published between 2006 and March 31, 2016. They based key recommendations on evidence from randomized, controlled trials. When those data were not available, they resorted to other studies and to consensus expert opinion. The recommendations take cost-effectiveness into account, but are not based on formal health economic assessments, the experts noted.

Myeloma UK paid for an independent medical writer to help search the literature and draft the manuscript. Dr. Snowden also disclosed support from Sheffield Hospitals Charity.

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