A program at Huntsman Cancer Institute is offering a treatment option it hopes will let patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an often-deadly form of bone marrow cancer, live longer.

The new Utah Blood and Marrow Transplant and Myeloma Program is headed by Dr. Guido Tricot, who came to the U. from the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. While there, he pioneered use of a treatment that has increased the median survival for newly diagnosed myeloma patients from 2.5 to 10 or more years.

Most myeloma transplant protocols call for a single round of high-dose chemotherapy, which kills both cancerous and healthy bone marrow cells. Then patients are rescued by their own healthy stem cells, collected prior to chemotherapy — an autologous stem-cell transplant.

Tricot's strategy prescribes four rounds of chemotherapy, two of which are high dose and coupled with autologous stem-cell transplant immediately after the chemo drugs leave the body.

Even so, some myeloma cells linger. To delay relapse, Tricot prescribes two years of maintenance therapy to fight any latent myeloma cells. He and his colleagues are also studying the genetic make-up of myeloma cells to help understand why they're resistant to even the most aggressive treatments, in hopes of finding a cure.

The five-year survival rate for people with multiple myeloma is only 32 percent, one of the lowest of all cancers. About 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year, most of them over age 65. The disease is more common in men than women and among African Americans than among whites.

Tricot is a professor of medicine and director of the Utah Blood and Marrow Transplant and Myeloma Program at HCI. His unique treatment schedule is one of only two such programs in the country. >