What Is Melphalan Used For?
If you have ovarian cancer or multiple myeloma, you may receive a chemotherapy medication called melphalan. This prescription drug cannot cure these forms of cancer, but it can help reduce symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Melphalan is approved for use in adults only. Off-label uses include treating breast cancer, testicular cancer, and bone marrow cancer in children.
An Overview of Uses for MelphalanMelphalan (Alkeran®) is a prescription chemotherapy medication used to treat people with certain types of cancer. It comes as a tablet that is taken by mouth, and as an injection that is given through a needle inserted into a vein (an intravenous, or IV, injection).
The tablet form of melphalan is approved to treat multiple myeloma and a type of cancer of the ovaries known as epithelial ovarian cancer. The injectable form of the medication is used to treat multiple myeloma in people who cannot take melphalan by mouth.
Melphalan is part of a group of chemotherapy medicines known as alkylating agents. There are several types of alkylating agents. Melphalan is a type of alkylating agent known as a nitrogen mustard.
This medication is approved for palliative cancer treatment. In general, palliative treatment is used to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. This type of care may slow down the progression of cancer and reduce tumor size, but it will not make the cancer completely go away.
Melphalan Use for the Treatment of Multiple MyelomaMultiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells are found in bone marrow, which is the soft, spongy tissue found in the middle of certain bones. Plasma cells make proteins, called antibodies, which help the body fight infection.
Multiple myeloma begins when plasma cells become abnormal and begin to multiply out of control. The abnormal plasma cells form tumors in the bone, and affect the ability of the bone marrow to make adequate amounts of normal blood cells. This can lead to symptoms, such as fatigue and weakness, from low levels of red blood cells. The tumors also damage bone, which can cause bone pain and other problems (see Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma).
Multiple myeloma treatment options vary, depending on a variety of factors, such as how much the disease has progressed and whether symptoms are occurring. People who are not experiencing symptoms may not need treatment. When treatment does occur, it can include:
- Stem cell transplant (see Stem Cell Transplant for Multiple Myeloma)
- Radiation treatment (see Multiple Myeloma Radiation Treatment)
- Medication treatment.
Melphalan is a type of medication treatment known as chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used to stop the growth of myeloma cells, which can slow down the progression of the condition and help reduce symptoms. Melphalan is often used in combination with other medications.