Important research into multiple myeloma is being done in many university hospitals, medical centers, and other institutions around the world. Each year, scientists find out more about what causes the disease and how to improve treatment. Many new drugs are being tested.
Researchers have found that bone marrow-support tissues and bone cells produce growth factors that increase the growth of myeloma cells. In turn, the myeloma cells produce substances that cause bone cells to undergo changes that weaken the bones. These discoveries are helping the researchers develop new drugs to block these growth factors, slow down the cancer, and reduce bone destruction. For example, bone marrow support (stromal) cells produce interleukin-6 (IL-6). Because IL-6 is a strong growth factor for multiple myeloma cells and eventually destroys bone, some current research efforts are focused on developing ways to block IL-6 function.
A form of arsenic, arsenic trioxide, is used to treat a certain kind of leukemia, and is also being tested to treat myeloma.
Drugs that act differently than the ones in use are being studied. For example, a drug called panobinostat is a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, which means it affects the proteins in chromosomes. It has shown promising results when used in combination with bortezomib (Velcade) and dexamethasone, and it is now approved for use along with these drugs.
A test called gene expression profiling has been studied in recent years in multiple myeloma. This test looks to see what genes are active in cancer cells, and may be able to tell if and when a patient with multiple myeloma will need to have chemotherapy. Much more work lies ahead though, before this test can be used routinely.
Last Revised: 01/19/2016