Los Angeles, CA, March 11, 2021 –The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) today launched a multiyear, multidisciplinary initiative called “M-Power Charlotte,” designed to empower people to change the course of myeloma by removing barriers to early diagnosis and treatment in the African-American community. To that end, the IMF is working with Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute’s Disparities & Outreach program in Charlotte, NC, to enlist local leaders and healthcare professionals in promoting increased knowledge about this treatable but little-known disease.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood plasma cells that will strike more than 30,000 adults this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease is the most common blood cancer in African Americans and is more than twice as common in people of African descent as in whites. 

The good news is that early detection and access to treatment improve survival. “The latest research data show that African-American myeloma patients do just as well, or even better than white patients, when barriers to early diagnosis and treatment are eliminated,” said Joseph Mikhael, MD, chief medical officer of the IMF. “These findings have been our organization’s call to action.” 

Doctors do not typically check people for myeloma during a regular visit because currently there are no national screening recommendations for myeloma. That is why it is important for African Americans to learn about the early symptoms of myeloma and let their doctors know that they are at higher risk for the disease. 

The “M-Power Charlotte” project launch coincides with March’s Myeloma Action Month, an annual IMF effort that spotlights myeloma-awareness activities around the world. In Charlotte, these will include:

  • A free online IMF workshop on Saturday, March 20, hosted by Dr. Mikhael, featuring a panel of leading myeloma experts, including Dr. Manisha Bhutani and Dr. Peter Voorhees from Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute. Topics will include “Myeloma for New Patients,” the latest in myeloma treatments, and a patient’s story about what it’s like to have the disease and how to make sure you get the best care.
  • The debut of a dedicated “M-Power Charlotte” website, to make it easier for people to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of the disease and the latest treatments. The site offers digital, video and print educational materials; a tip card with key information to help facilitate conversations between patients and doctors; and a directory of area support groups. 

“The IMF’s 30-year history of empowering all myeloma patients informs our work in Charlotte,” said Brian G.M. Durie, MD, the IMF’s chairman. “We are hopeful that with the help of Levine Cancer Institute’s Disparities & Outreach program we can improve myeloma outcomes in the African-American community.”

Along with educating the Charlotte area’s at-risk individuals, their primary care and specialty care physicians and nurses about early myeloma symptoms, the IMF “M-Power Charlotte” team seeks to identify and eliminate hurdles that prevent people from getting the diagnosis and care they deserve. “There are barriers to care that exist in many of the communities we serve, and we are determined to remove them,” said Derek Raghavan, MD, president of Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute. “By expanding awareness in the most-affected communities, we hope to see better access to care and better treatment results.”

“Since the program’s inception, the Plasma Cell Disorders Division has been committed to overcoming barriers to diagnosis and care in our community,” said Saad Usmani MD, division chief of plasma cell disorders at Atrium Health. “This collaboration is a testament to our long-term commitment to the communities we serve.” 

Added John Damonti, president of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, which is supporting the IMF Charlotte initiative with an educational grant, “We are proud to partner with the International Myeloma Foundation on this comprehensive initiative to show how disease outcomes can be improved through a program of education, awareness and access to early diagnosis. Based on the experience and capacity of the IMF Charlotte team, along with our years of investment in this area, I am excited to see how our partnership can impact the outcomes of myeloma for this at-risk population.”  
Early detection and treatment is critical, according to Mellisa Wheeler, director of the Disparities & Outreach program at Levine Cancer Institute. “By collaborating with trusted sources of health information in the Carolinas and tapping into the IMF’s extensive library of educational materials, we can raise awareness of how those factors contribute to the best outcomes for myeloma patients,” she said.

We invite you to change the course of myeloma in the African-American community. Visit or call (800) 452-CURE (2873) to learn more.

About the International Myeloma Foundation

Founded in 1990, the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) is the first and largest foundation focusing specifically on multiple myeloma. The IMF is dedicated to improving the quality of life of myeloma patients while working toward prevention and a cure by focusing on four key areas: research, education, support, and advocacy. The IMF maintains a world-renowned InfoLine, and in 2001, established the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG), a collaborative research initiative focused on improving myeloma treatment options for patients. The IMF can be reached at (800) 452-CURE (2873). The global website is Follow the IMF on Twitter @IMFmyeloma.

About Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute

Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute is committed to improving the overall health and wellbeing of its communities through high quality patient care, education and research programs, and numerous collaborative partnerships and initiatives. Providing seamless access to coordinated, high-quality healthcare close to where patients live is fundamental to the mission of the organization.

About Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation

The mission of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation is to help reduce health disparities by strengthening community-based health care worker capacity, integrating medical care and community-based supportive services, and mobilizing communities in the fight against disease. Follow us on Twitter at


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