Thalidomide can be taken alone or combined with steroids to treat myelofibrosis (MF).

Why take this drug?

Thalidomide combined with steroids can occasionally help with anaemia, low platelet counts and sometimes enlarged spleen, and can be very effective in some patients. There is evidence to suggest that in some patients with early MF, thalidomide may reverse early fibrous deposits.

How it works

Thalidomide is thought to work as an immune modulator and interacts with chemicals in the bone marrow to normalize the blood supply (sometimes extra small vessels grow in MF) and it may reduce fibrosis.

Common side effects

Thalidomide and its derivatives can cause:

  • Nerve problems in some patients, causing a neuropathy
  • Problems with sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Problems with the development of a baby
This medication is given to people with MF in low doses, so it is generally reasonably well tolerated. Adding steroids is thought to make it easier to take. Thalidomide is often given in combination with steroids. The main side effects of steroids are:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Gastric irritation
  • Developing high blood pressure, diabetes and thin bones
  • Infections
Thalidomide is a drug that can be used either in combination with steroids or on its own to treat MF. There are now drugs similar to thalidomide or derivatives to thalidomide which may prove to be more effective than thalidomide itself. Some of these drugs are used to treat other diseases and some are under trial. These drugs include Lenolidomide and Pomalidomide.

Treatment methods

Thalidomide can be used either alone or in combination with steroids.