Treatment strategies for multiple myeloma have changed substantially over the past 10 years following the introduction of bortezomib and the immunomodulatory drugs thalidomide and lenalidomide. In the front-line setting, combination regimens incorporating these novel agents are demonstrating substantial activity, which is translating into improved outcomes compared with previous standards of care. Response rates and depth of response that were previously only seen with high-dose therapy plus stem-cell transplantation (HDT–SCT) can now be achieved with new induction regimens utilizing these novel agents. This has raised the need for trials that will determine the clinical benefit of early SCT in patients that have already achieved a high quality of response. Here, we review the improvements in response and outcome that are seen with these novel-agent regimens, both as induction therapy prior to HDT–SCT and in non-transplant patients, and highlight the latest data from key studies of various novel combinations, including regimens featuring bortezomib plus thalidomide or lenalidomide. We also review data on response and outcomes in patients with poor prognostic characteristics that indicate that the adverse impact typically seen with these factors may be overcome using novel-agent therapy.