Multiple Myeloma Overview

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Treating Multiple Myeloma TOPICS

Supportive therapy for multiple myeloma

Patients with multiple myeloma often need treatments for some of the problems that myeloma can cause, like infections and low blood counts.

Treatment to prevent and treat infections

People with multiple myeloma can have high levels of the myeloma protein, but low levels of the antibodies they need to fight infections. Doctors can give them antibodies collected from donors, which is called IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin). This treatment can lower the chance of getting a severe infection.

Treatment for low blood counts

Some patients develop low red blood cell counts (anemia) from multiple myeloma or its treatment. If the red blood counts get too low, the doctor may recommend a transfusion. Another option is medicines that tell the cells in the bone marrow to make more red blood cells. These drugs are not used very often, though, since they have been linked to poorer survival in patients with some cancers.

Plasmapheresis

For this treatment, a machine removes blood from a vein. The blood cells are then separated from the plasma (the liquid part of the blood) and returned in another vein. The large amounts of abnormal proteins released by the myeloma cells are in the plasma. The plasma is discarded and replaced with a salt solution and plasma from donors.

Plasmapheresis is helpful when the build-up of myeloma proteins thickens the blood and slows circulation. This treatment lowers protein levels and relieves some symptoms for a time, but it does not kill the myeloma cells. Without further treatment, the level of myeloma protein will just go back up again. For that reason, plasmapheresis is often followed by chemotherapy or some other type of drug treatment to kill the cells that make the proteins.


Last Medical Review: 05/22/2014
Last Revised: 06/19/2014