To determine whether interferon maintenance therapy improves overall survival and response duration in patients with multiple myeloma who have responded to induction therapy with melphalan and prednisone.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
In a multicenter trial, patients with symptomatic clinical stage I and stage II and III multiple myeloma were registered at diagnosis and those who responded to melphalan-prednisone (MP) were randomized either to receive interferon (2 mU/m2) subcutaneously three times per week or no maintenance. MP was discontinued in both groups once a stable response plateau of the monoclonal protein was reached. Interferon was continued until relapse, and then was restarted on subsequent response to MP. Interferon toxicity was recorded using a self-report diary. Survival and response duration were calculated using life-table methods, and were adjusted in the analysis for imbalances in baseline prognostic factors.
Four hundred two patients were registered and 176 responders were randomized (85 to interferon and 91 to control). At a median follow-up time of 43 months, the median survival duration was 43 months for interferon and 35 months for control (P = .16), but when adjusted for chance imbalances in baseline prognostic factors (mainly performance status), the median survival duration was 44 months and 33 months for interferon and control, respectively (P = .049). Progression-free survival from randomization to first relapse also favored interferon (unadjusted P < .002; adjusted P < .003). Interferon toxicity caused 58% of patients to reduce their dose, of which 84% were able to return to the initial dose; 14% had to discontinue interferon treatment.
Interferon maintenance therapy improves progression-free and overall survival of patients with multiple myeloma who respond to melphalan and prednisone. Toxicity is substantial and must be weighed by patients against the potential benefits in response duration and survival.