Multiple Myeloma Increases Risk of Breakthrough COVID-19 Infection

Since the onset of COVID-19, there have been approximately 262M cases, and 5.2M deaths, on a worldwide scale. However, the introduction of various COVID-19 vaccines, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, have helped to reduce the risk of transmission, infection, and death. The vaccine does not 100% prevent people from becoming infected with COVID-19, but usually reduces their risk of severe illness. But News Medical reports that recent studies suggest that people with multiple myeloma (MM) are at a potentially higher risk of breakthrough infections and hospitalizations even after vaccination.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at the full study findings published in JAMA Network Open

Multiple Myeloma (MM)

So what exactly is multiple myeloma (MM)? This rare cancer develops in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that normally plays a role in fighting infections. When patients develop MM, it causes cancer cells to form in bone marrow, crowding out healthy cells. These cancerous cells then develop abnormal M proteins (antibodies). Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bone pain (especially in the spine or chest)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Appetite loss
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Constipation
  • Confusion or mental fogginess
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent or recurrent infections
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Kidney issues

The Research

Prior studies suggested that patients with hematological cancers had lower seroconversion rates following mRNA vaccines. Within this study, researchers sought to understand the risk of breakthrough infections in those with multiple myeloma, compared to those who do not have cancer, following COVID-19 vaccination. 

To begin, researchers sourced de-identified health records from approximately 5,07,288 patients who had, over a certain time period,:

  • Received 2 doses of either the Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
  • Not been infected with COVID-19
  • Recently (over the past year) been treated by a healthcare organization from which researchers sourced the health records

Findings from the study include:

  • Altogether, the records included 1,182 fully vaccinated patients with multiple myeloma. Of these, 187 patients (15.82%) experienced breakthrough COVID-19 infections. 
  • A large percentage of patients with breakthrough infections had either:
    • Never achieved remission
    • Been on chemotherapy or targeted therapy 
  • The risk of breakthrough infections was 3.9 for those without cancer and 15.4 for those with multiple myeloma. Additionally, those with multiple myeloma were at a significantly increased risk of hospitalization.
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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