What is multiple myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that develops in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells help fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs.
Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. These myeloma cells result in the production of abnormal antibodies, or M proteins. A high level of M protein in the blood is the hallmark characteristic of multiple myeloma.
What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?
- Bone pain, especially in your spine or chest
- Kidney problems
- Loss of appetite
- Mental fogginess or confusion
- Frequent infections
- Weight loss
- Weakness or numbness in your legs
- Excessive thirst
- Low blood count
What causes multiple myeloma?
The exact cause of multiple myeloma is not known.
Symptoms occur as a result of a process that is initiated by the abnormal multiplication of plasma cells in bone marrow. One factor of interest to researchers is that many myeloma cells have been found to be missing all or part of chromosome 13.
How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?
- Blood tests, to determine M proteins or beta-2-microglubin
- Urine tests, to determine M proteins
- Bone marrow exam
- Imaging tests
What are the available treatments for multiple myeloma?
Multiple myeloma drug therapies consist of two types: one type of therapy is to control the myeloma or kill myeloma cells, and the other type is to alleviate symptoms and manage complications of the disease (supportive therapy).
There are now 5 drug classes for the treatment of multiple myeloma:
- Immunomodulatory drugs,
- Proteasome inhibitors
- Histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDAC inhibitor)
Click here for a thorough reference of multiple myeloma treatment options.