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Study led by Roswell physician leads to FDA drug approval

The federal government has approved the multiple myeloma drug lenalidomide for a new group of patients, and Dr. Philip McCarthy of Roswell Park Cancer Institute was at the heart of the work.

The latest approval for the drug, commonly known as Revlimid, would be for use as continuing or "maintenance" therapy for patients following blood and marrow transplants. The drug already is an approved treatment for some other patients with multiple myeloma.

The decision spelled good news for multiple myeloma patients across the country, but also had a special significance here since McCarthy led the national research effort that paved the way for the FDA’s decision to approve the therapy for this particular indication.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval last month is important because it makes it easier for patients around the country to access and get insurance coverage for a beneficial therapy, Roswell officials said.

"I am indebted to the 461 patients who volunteered to be a part of our study and to all patients, families and clinicians who participated in the earlier-phase studies that preceded it," McCarthy wrote in a recent Roswell Park blog post. "Thousands of other people with multiple myeloma have benefited because they chose to participate in a study of an agent whose effectiveness had not yet been demonstrated.”

There currently is no cure for multiple myeloma, but newer therapy options such as lenalidomide are helping many patients to live with the disease for many years.

"I’m eagerly looking forward to the next big treatment breakthrough. I am optimistic that I’m going to see a cure for at least some multiple myeloma patients while I’m still practicing," McCarthy wrote. "I hope I’m right."

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