Primary Systemic Amyloidosis Medication

Updated: Sep 03, 2021
  • Author: Judit H Nyirady, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Medication Summary

The treatment of primary systemic amyloidosis is often unsatisfactory. No reliable method for the accurate assessment of the total amount of amyloid in the body exists. Investigations are limited to the evaluation of organ function and the measurement of monoclonal protein levels in the serum and urine.

The similarity between primary systemic amyloidosis and multiple myeloma suggests that chemotherapy may be useful. Using different regimens of intermittent oral melphalan and prednisone, 2 groups of investigators [12, 33] confirmed the effectiveness of this therapy compared with no therapy or therapy with colchicine alone. However, the response rate was low, with an increased survival from a median of approximately 7-9 months in patients who did not receive chemotherapy to approximately 12-18 months in those receiving chemotherapy.

In another trial, Kyle and Greipp reported the effectiveness of combined melphalan and prednisone therapy compared with placebo therapy. [35] Although the nephrotic syndrome improved in a number of individuals receiving the active medications, overall survival rates for the active and placebo groups were not substantially different.

Colchicine has also been used in the treatment of primary systemic amyloidosis. Colchicine may inhibit amyloid deposition by blocking the formation of amyloid-enhancing factors, and it also inhibits the secretion of amyloid from hepatocytes.

Based on encouraging results in myeloma patients, Dispenzieri et al reported results of a clinical trial of lenalidomide therapy with or without dexamethasone in patients with primary systemic amyloidosis. [36] As a single agent, lenalidomide had modest activity in primary systemic amyloidosis. This activity was significantly enhanced when lenalidomide was used in conjunction with dexamethasone.



Class Summary

These agents inhibit key factors in the immune system that are responsible for inflammatory responses.

Prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, Meticorten)

Prednisone is an immunosuppressant for the treatment of autoimmune disorders; it may decrease inflammation by reversing increased capillary permeability and suppressing PMN activity. Prednisone stabilizes lysosomal membranes and suppresses lymphocytes and antibody production.

Dexamethasone (Decadron)

Dexamethasone has many pharmacologic benefits but also significant adverse effects. It stabilizes cell and lysosomal membranes, increases surfactant synthesis, increases serum vitamin A concentration, and inhibits prostaglandin and proinflammatory cytokines (eg, TNF-alpha, IL-6, IL-2, and IFN-gamma). The inhibition of chemotactic factors and factors that increase capillary permeability inhibits recruitment of inflammatory cells into affected areas. Dexamethasone suppresses lymphocyte proliferation through direct cytolysis and inhibits mitosis. It breaks down granulocyte aggregates and improves pulmonary microcirculation. It is an important chemotherapeutic agent in the treatment of ALL. It is used in induction and reinduction therapy and given as intermittent pulses during continuation therapy.

Adverse effects are hyperglycemia, hypertension, weight loss, GI bleeding or perforation synthesis, cerebral palsy, adrenal suppression, and death. Most of the adverse effects of corticosteroids are dose or duration dependent.

Dexamethasone is readily absorbed via the GI tract and metabolized in the liver. Inactive metabolites are excreted via the kidneys. It lacks the salt-retaining property of hydrocortisone.

Patients can be switched from an intravenous to oral regimen in a 1:1 ratio.


Antineoplastic agents

Class Summary

These agents inhibit cell growth and proliferation.

Melphalan (Alkeran)

Melphalan inhibits mitosis by cross-linking DNA strands.


Uricosuric agents

Class Summary

These agents may inhibit the events involved in the inflammatory response associated with the disease.


Colchicine decreases leukocyte motility and phagocytosis in inflammatory responses.



Lenalidomide (Revlimid)

Lenalidomide is structurally similar to thalidomide. It elicits immunomodulatory and antiangiogenic properties. It inhibits proinflammatory cytokine secretion and increases anti-inflammatory cytokines from peripheral blood mononuclear cells.