BY DEENA BEASLEY for Reuters The most influential source for U.S. oncology treatment guidelines last week unveiled ratings aimed at helping doctors and patients assess the costs versus benefits of current therapies for two types of blood cancer. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a nonprofit alliance of 26 leading cancer centers, said its new "Evidence Blocks" for multiple myeloma and chronic myelogenous leukemia are the first in a series that by the end of next year will encompass all oncology therapies, other than surgery or radiation. The blocks give each therapy a score of between one and five in five categories: efficacy, safety, quality and consistency of evidence and affordability. They will supplement NCCN's widely followed guidelines for oncology care. In examples released on Friday, NCCN rated primary treatments for CML: Bristol-Myers Squibb's Sprycel, and Novartis AG's Gleevec and Tasigna. Ratings for all three were nearly identical: highly effective and very expensive. For newly diagnosed myeloma patients eligible for a stem cell transplant, NCCN lists six "preferred" regimens, four of which contain Takeda Pharmaceutical Co's Velcade and various chemotherapies, one that includes Celgene Corp's Revlimid and another that combines Velcade and Revlimid. The Velcade/Revlimid/dexamethasone regimen is rated as the most effective and the most expensive. NCCN lists Amgen Inc's Kyprolis, in combination with Revlimid and dexamethasone, as another upfront therapy for myeloma. The Kyprolis regimen was rated highly effective, mildly toxic, average in terms of evidence, mainly consistent in terms of trial data, and very expensive. Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow, while CML starts in certain blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma is diagnosed in about 27,000 Americans each year, and CML is occurs in about 7,000, according to the American Cancer Society.
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Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.