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Important research into multiple myeloma is being done in 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 researchers develop new drugs to block these growth factors, slow down the cancer, and reduce bone destruction.
Even though most patients with smoldering multiple myeloma have a low risk of turning into active myeloma, there are certain patients with features that make them at higher risk of developing active myeloma. New research is showing that by treating these patients sooner than waiting for symptoms may delay when active myeloma starts and may also improve survival.
Minimal residual disease is a term used when tiny amounts of myeloma cancer cells are still present in the bone marrow after treatment. Patients who have no cancer cells left after treatment appear to have better survival rates than patients who still have even very small amounts of cancer cells. New technologies are working to find one myeloma cell in a million normal cells. Studies are also looking into whether getting rid of every myeloma cancer cell (having no minimal residual disease) should be a goal of therapy.
Your immune system helps keep track of all the substances normally found in your body. Any new substance the immune system doesn't recognize raises an alarm, causing the immune system to attack it. Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR T-cell therapy) is a promising new way to get immune cells called T cells (a type of white blood cell) to fight cancer by changing them in the lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells. Recent studies have shown CAR T-cell therapy with the BCMA protein to be very promising even in myeloma patients who have previously been treated with many drugs.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
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Berdeja JG et al. First-in-human multicenter study of bb2121 anti-BCMA CAR T-cell therapy for relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma: Updated results. J Clin Oncol 35, 2017 (suppl; abstr 3010).
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National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Multiple myeloma. V.3.2018. Accessed at www.nccn.org on Dec. 7, 2017.
Munshi NC, Anderson KC. Ch. 112 Plasma cell neoplasms. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.
Palumbo A, Anderson K. Multiple myeloma. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(11):1046-1060.
Rajkumar SV, Dispenzieri A. Multiple myeloma and related disorders. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th edition. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier: 2014:1991-2017.
Last Revised: February 28, 2018
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