Thalidomide: Research advances in cancer and other conditions

Despite its history, thalidomide has proved effective in treating some diseases. Consider the benefits and risks of thalidomide to help you decide whether this drug may be right for you. By Mayo Clinic Staff

In the 1950s and the early 1960s, thalidomide was used to treat morning sickness during pregnancy. But it was found to cause severe birth defects.

Now, decades later, thalidomide is being used to treat a skin condition and cancer. It's being investigated as a treatment for many other disorders.

Thalidomide proves useful for skin lesions and multiple myeloma

Research into potential uses for thalidomide has determined that thalidomide may be an effective treatment for several conditions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved thalidomide (Thalomid) for treating:

  • Skin lesions caused by leprosy (erythema nodosum leprosum)
  • Multiple myeloma

Areas of thalidomide research

Researchers continue to investigate thalidomide for use in treating a variety of diseases and conditions. Though more study is needed, thalidomide has shown promise in treating:

  • Inflammatory diseases that affect the skin, such as cutaneous lupus and Behcet's disease
  • HIV-related mouth and throat ulcers, as well as HIV-related weight loss and body wasting
  • Cancer, including blood and bone marrow cancers, such as leukemia and myelofibrosis, as well as cancers found elsewhere in the body
Jun. 05, 2013 See more In-depth