We compared thalidomide-dexamethasone (TD) with melphalan-prednisolone (MP) in 289 elderly patients with multiple myeloma (MM). Patients received either thalidomide 200 mg plus dexamethasone 40 mg, days 1 to 4 and 15 to 18 on even cycles and days 1 to 4 on odd cycles, during a 28-day cycle or to melphalan 0.25 mg/kg and prednisolone 2 mg/kg orally on days 1 to 4 during a 28- to 42-day cycle. Patients achieving stable disease or better were randomly assigned to maintenance therapy with either thalidomide 100 mg daily and 3 MU interferon alpha-2b thrice weekly or to 3 MU interferon alpha-2b thrice weekly only. TD resulted in a higher proportion of complete and very good remissions (26% vs 13%; P= .006) and overall responses (68% vs 50%; P= .002) compared with MP. Time to progression (21.2 vs 29.1 months; P= .2), and progression-free survival was similar (16.7 vs 20.7 months; P= .1), but overall survival was significantly shorter in the TD group (41.5 vs 49.4 months; P= .024). Toxicity was higher with TD, particularly in patients older than 75 years with poor performance status. The study was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov as NCT00205751.