What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma: A Blood Cancer 

In this week's episode, myeloma expert Dr. Brian G.M. Durie answers the question: What is multiple myeloma and how does it impact the body? 

The BOTTOM LINE: Multiple myeloma is a treatable disease and new immune therapies promise even better outcomes. 

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This week’s “Ask Dr. Durie” is the fundamental question for all patients with the diagnosis of myeloma. The first question is: Doctor, what exactly is myeloma? And so, what I’m going to do this week is give that “101” summary; what is myeloma?  

Well, myeloma is a blood cancer which starts in bone marrow, just like leukemia. The cancer is of cells which are called plasma cells, which normally make antibodies to fight infection. These abnormal plasma cells are called myeloma cells.  

When myeloma cells build up in the bone marrow and increase in size with tumors building up there, they can cause bone marrow damage, which causes anemia and reduced blood counts. But they can also produce damage to the surrounding bone, which can cause injury and pain and also there is a reduction in the production of normal antibodies by normal plasma cells. 

What does this mean? How can this be managed? Well, the main thing about myeloma is that although it is not a curable disease, it is very much a treatable disease with a range of treatments that have been developed over the past twenty years.  

And so, right now a newly diagnosed myeloma patient can expect to have a first remission in the range of three to five years or sometimes longer.  

Nowadays in 2022, the overall outcome from a starting out patient is in the range of over ten years of survival. And so, although not a curable disease, and certainly we are working to attempt to achieve a cure, it’s very much a treatable disease. 

The simple answer to the question “what is myeloma?” is, BOTTOM LINE: It is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. It is a type of cancer which is very much treatable, and the introduction of new immune therapies, particularly here in 2022 and moving forward into these coming years, will really even further improve the potential outcomes.  


Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieProfessor of Medicine, Hematologist/Oncologist, and Honoree MD at the University of Brussels, Dr. Brian G.M. Durie is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer of the IMF. Dr. Durie is also the Chairman of the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG)—a consortium of more than 250 myeloma experts from around the world—and leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI). 


Source URL: https://www.myeloma.org/videos/multiple-myeloma