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Important research into multiple myeloma is taking place all over the world. Each year, we learn more about what causes the disease and how to better treat it.

Researchers have now found that bone marrow-support tissues and bone cells make growth factors that increase the growth of myeloma cells. In turn, the myeloma cells make substances that cause bone cells to go through changes that weaken the bones. This knowledge is helping doctors develop new drugs to block these growth factors, slow down the cancer, and reduce the harm to bone. For instance, some current research is looking at ways to block the function of IL-6, a strong growth factor for multiple myeloma cells that leads to bone damage.

A form of arsenic is also being tested as a treatment for myeloma. Drugs that block blood vessel growth and others that block tumor growth are also being tested in clinical trials.

Research is also looking at improving stem cell transplants. A newer approach is to follow an autologous (self) transplant with an allogeneic (donor) transplant. So far, results have been mixed, and more studies are needed.

A new test that may be able to tell if and when a patient with multiple myeloma needs to have chemotherapy has been developed. Much more work lies ahead, though, before this test can be used routinely.

Last Medical Review: 05/22/2014
Last Revised: 01/19/2016