A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Myeloma

This article was originally published on Curetoday

The last 15 years have proved pivotal for patients with myeloma, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved many active and highly specific therapies to treat the disease, according to Dr. Giada Bianchi.

Bianchi, who is an associate director of the Amyloidosis Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, recently provided an overview of myeloma during CURE®’s virtual Educated Patient® Multiple Myeloma Summit.

In an interview with CURE®, Bianchi explained what myeloma is, and discussed what therapies are currently available to treat the disease and how patients can work with physicians to select the best therapy.

CURE®: How do you explain to patients what myeloma is and how it usually develops?

Bianchi: I’m a big fan of drawing. So usually, when I meet with my patients, I do this very rudimental drawing of what a plasma cell is, and how a normal plasma cell helps us by producing antibodies and in fighting infection on our behalf.

And from there, I take it to the fact that myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells and retain much of the capacity of normal plasma cells to secrete an abnormal protein or an abnormal immunoglobulin in the blood. And that’s often how we detect the disease or, you know, we provide a diagnosis. And then I tell them that these cells typically live in the bone marrow, and when myeloma develops, rather than being a handful of cells in the bone marrow, they really start to grow disproportionately and impair the normal element of the bone marrow. And so, the good cells of the blood, the platelets, the white cells, the red cells, they impact the integrity of the bone. And so typically, patients present with bone pain related to bone disease from the exuberant growth of myeloma cells. Occasionally, the proteins that myeloma cells produce can also hurt the kidneys. Renal failure is another manifestation of this disease, that together with the high calcium level can often lead to the diagnosis.

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