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Multiple Myeloma Market Will Expand With Launch of Monoclonal Antibodies

Chris Fellner

In multiple myeloma (MM), abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) accumulate in the bone marrow, forming tumors that may prevent the marrow from producing enough healthy blood cells. As myeloma cells proliferate, fewer leukocytes, erythrocytes, and platelets are made. Myeloma cells also weaken and damage the bone. The signs and symptoms of MM include bone pain, bones that break easily, fever for no known reason, easy bruising or bleeding, and trouble breathing.1

MM is the third most common blood cancer in the U.S. (after lymphoma and leukemia). Men have a higher incidence than women, and African-Americans have more than twice the incidence and mortality rates of whites. In 2014, it was estimated that more than 24,000 people would be diagnosed with MM in the U.S. and that more than 11,000 would die from it.2

MM treatments include chemotherapy and other drugs (Table 1), biologic therapy, radiation, surgery, stem-cell transplant (SCT), bisphosphonates, and plasmapharesis.3 In drug therapy, the immunomodulatory agent lenalidomide (Revlimid, Celgene) dominates the MM market in the U.S., where it is included in all lines of MM therapy either as monotherapy or in combination with other drugs. For newly diagnosed patients who are eligible for SCT, the most commonly used regimens are the RD (Revlimid and dexamethasone) and RVD (Revlimid, Velcade [bortezomib, Takeda], and dexamethasone) combinations. Newly diagnosed, SCT-ineligible patients are commonly treated with the same combinations. For consolidation therapy, patients usually receive either lenalidomide monotherapy or lenalidomide-containing regimens.4

For the treatment of first relapse, the most popular choices are RD and RVD. For second relapse, several regimens are used, with approximately 20% of clinicians choosing either RD or RVD. For patients at third relapse, pomalidomide (Pomalyst, Celgene) is the preferred treatment, followed by the RVD regimen.4

Analysts foresee substantial growth in the MM market into the next decade, driven primarily by the launch of two injectable monoclonal antibodies, elotuzumab (Empliciti, Bristol-Myers Squibb/AbbVie) and daratumumab (Darzalex, Genmab/Janssen) (Table 1). Both are expected to lengthen the time between relapses. Their favorable efficacy and safety will also mean that more MM patients will ultimately receive drug treatment.4

It is believed that elotuzumab will be preferred over daratumumab for use in combination with lenalidomide/dexamethasone because of the synergistic effects of elotuzumab and lenalidomide on the immune system. In November 2015, elotuzumab was approved for use with this combination in patients who have received one to three prior therapies, whereas daratumumab was approved as monotherapy in patients who have received at least three prior lines of therapy or who are double-refractory to a proteasome inhibitor and an immunomodulatory agent.58 Elotuzumab is forecast to reach blockbuster status by 2018, with peak sales in 2022 at $4.2 billion, and daratumumab is anticipated to achieve peak sales of $3.7 billion in 2023.4

Another recent addition to the MM armamentarium is the 20S proteasome inhibitor ixazomib (Ninlaro, Millennium Pharmaceuticals/Takeda), also approved in November 2015. Like elotuzumab, it is indicated for use in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone (Table 1). Unlike both elotuzumab and daratumumab, ixazomib is an oral medication, available in capsule form.9,10

Treatment options for MM patients will be further increased by label extensions to elotuzumab, daratumumab, and ixazomib, as well as to the currently marketed, second-generation proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib (Kyprolis, Onyx Pharmaceuticals/Amgen). In addition, several promising agents are in clinical development, including two 20S proteasome inhibitors, marizomib (Triphase Accelerator Corporation) and oprozomib (Onyx Pharmaceuticals), and a new monoclonal antibody, SAR650984 (Sanofi) (Table 2).4

Analysts expect the new MM drugs to come with hefty price tags, but the patent expirations of lenalidomide and bortezomib may alleviate spending.4


Key FDA-Approved Treatments for Multiple Myelomaa

Initial MM Approval Date Description MM Dosage and Administrationb Cost of 24 Weeks of Treatmentc
Immunomodulatory Drugs
Daratumumab (Darzalex)
November 16, 2015 Anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody 16 mg/kg IV once weekly from weeks 1 to 8; then every 2 weeks from weeks 9 to 24; and then every 4weeks from week 25 onward until disease progression. M: $123,034d
F: $103,680
Elotuzumab (Empliciti)
Bristol-Myers Squibb/AbbVie
November 30, 2015 Anti-CS1 monoclonal antibody 10 mg/kg IV infused on days 1, 8, 15, and 22 of first two 28-day cycles and days 1 and 15 of later cycles. Administered with lenalidomide and DX. M: $101,161d
F: $85,248
Lenalidomide (Revlimid)
June 29, 2006 Thalidomide analog with antiangiogenic and anti-neoplastic properties 25 mg QD orally on days 1–21 of repeated 28-day cycles. Administered with DX. $76,007
Pomalidomide (Pomalyst)
February 8, 2013 Thalidomide analog with antineoplastic activity 4 mg QD orally on days 1–21 of repeated 28-day cycles. May be administered with DX. $88,032
Thalidomide (Thalomid)
May 26, 2006 Immunomodulatory agent with anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic properties 200 mg QD orally. Administered with DX in repeated 28-day cycles. $63,673
Proteasome Inhibitors
Bortezomib (Velcade)
Takeda Oncology
June 23, 2008 26S proteasome inhibitor with anti-neoplastic activity 1.3 mg/m2 IV or SC for nine 6-week cycles on days 1, 4, 8, 11, 22, 25, 29, and 32 in cycles 1–4 and days 1, 8, 22, and 29 of cycles 5–9. Administered with oral melphalan and prednisone. M: $45,926e
F: $41,334
Carfilzomib (Kyprolis)
Onyx Pharmaceuticals/Amgen
July 24, 2015 26S proteasome inhibitor with anti-neoplastic activity 20 mg/m2 IV on days 1 and 2 of first 28-day cycle. If tolerated, escalate to target dose of 27 mg/m2 on days 8, 9, 15, and 16 of cycle 1. From cycle 13, omit day 8 and 9. Discontinue after cycle 18. Administered with lenalidomide and DX. M: $71,350e
F: $64,215
Ixazomib (Ninlaro)
Millennium Pharmaceuticals/Takeda
November 20, 2015 20S proteasome inhibitor 4 mg orally on days 1, 8, and 15 of 28-day cycle. Administered with lenalidomide and DX. $62,424
Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor
Panobinostat (Farydak)
February 23, 2015 HDAC inhibitor induces cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis 20 mg orally on days 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, and 12 of weeks 1 and 2 of each 21-day cycle for 8 cycles. Administered with DX. $65,856
Traditional Chemotherapy
Doxorubicin liposome injection (Doxil)
Janssen Products
May 17, 2007 Anthracycline topoisomerase II inhibitor prevents nucleic acid synthesis 30 mg/m2 IV over 60 minutes on day 4 of each 21-day cycle for 8 cycles or until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Administered with bortezomib. M: $31,044e
F: $27,939

aThis list is not all-inclusive; additional therapies may be available.

bBased on prescribing information; doses and schedules may vary based on patient-specific requirements.

cCosts calculated using average wholesale price and regimen provided for initial 24 weeks of treatment, rounded to the nearest dollar. Costs do not include coadministered medications.

dPrice calculated using weights of 88 kg for men and 75 kg for women.

ePrice calculated using body surface areas of 2.0 for men and 1.8 for women.

DX = dexamethasone; F = female; HDAC = histone deacetylase; IV = intravenous; M = male; MM = multiple myeloma; QD = once daily.

Sources: FDA, National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, International Myeloma Foundation, product prescribing information, Red Book online

Promising Multiple Myeloma Drugs in Clinical Development

Status Therapeutic Class Treatment Regimen
Evofosfamide (TH-302)
Threshold Pharmaceuticals/Merck
Phase2 Tumor hypoxia-activated prodrug Best-tolerated IV dosage in clinical trials: 380 mg/m2 biweekly with DX.
Filanesib (ARRY-520)
Array BioPharma
Phase 2 KSP inhibitor In phase 2 trial: 1.25 mg/m2/day IV on days 1, 2, 15, and 16 of 28-day cycle with prophylactic filgrastim.
Phase 1 and phase 2 Specific pan-PIM kinase inhibitor In phase 1 dose-ranging trial: 70–700 mg/day orally; maximum tolerated dosage: 500 mg/day.
Marizomib (NPI-0052)
Triphase Accelerator Corporation
Phase 1/2 and phase 2 20S proteasome inhibitor In phase 1 dose-ranging trial: 0.075–0.6 mg/m2 IV over 1 to 200 minutes on days 1, 4, 8, and 11 of 21-day cycle with DX.
Oprozomib (ONX-0912)
Onyx Pharmaceuticals
Phase 1B/2; FDA filing in July 2015 20S proteasome inhibitor In clinical trials: 240 mg orally on days 1–5 of 14-day cycle or 240 mg on days 1, 2, 8, and 9 of 14-day cycle.
Plitidepsin (Aplidin)
Phase 3 Antitumor and immunosuppressive natural product; original molecule isolated from sea squirt In phase 3 trial: 5 mg/m2 IV over 3 hours on days 1 and 15 every 4 weeks. Administered with DX.
Phase 1 and phase 2 Anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody In phase 1 dose-ranging trial: 0.3, 1, 3, 5, 10, and 20 mg/kg IV every 2 weeks and 10 mg/kg IV weekly.
Selinexor (KPT-330)
Karyopharm Therapeutics
Phase 2 CRM1 inhibitor Best response in phase 1 trial: 45 mg/m2 IV with DX twice weekly.

CRM1 = chromosome region maintenance 1; DX = dexamethasone; IV = intravenous; KSP = kinase spindle protein; PIM = serine/threonine protein kinase subfamily.

Sources: FDA, GlobalData, company websites

Author bio: 
Chris Fellner is a medical writer and the Editor of


  1. National Cancer Institute. Plasma cell neoplasms (including multiple myeloma) treatment (PDQ): general information about plasma cell neoplasms. October 12015;Available at: Accessed November 12, 2015.
  2. National Cancer Institute. A snapshot of myeloma: incidence and mortality. November 52014;Available at: Accessed November 12, 2015.
  3. American Cancer Society. How is multiple myeloma treated?. March 92015;Available at: Accessed November 12, 2015.
  4. GlobalData. Multiple Myeloma: Global Drug Forecast and Market Analysis to 2023 Available at: Accessed November 12, 2015.
  5. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Empliciti, a new immune-stimulating therapy to treat multiple myeloma. November 302015;Available at: Accessed December 2, 2015.
  6. Empliciti (elotuzumab injection) prescribing information Princeton, New Jersey: Bristol-Myers Squibb. November 2015;Available at: Accessed December 2, 2015.
  7. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Darzalex for patients with previously treated multiple myeloma. November 162015;Available at: Accessed December 2, 2015.
  8. Darzalex (daratumumab injection) prescribing information Horsham, Pennsylvania: Janssen Biotech, Inc.. November 2015;Available at: Accessed December 2, 2015.
  9. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Ninlaro, new oral medication to treat multiple myeloma November 202015;Available at: Accessed December 2, 2015.
  10. Ninlaro (ixazomib capsules) prescribing information Cambridge, Massachusetts: Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited. November 2015;Available at: Accessed December 2, 2015.