Myeloma and Multiple Myeloma
For myeloma and other blood disorders, City of Hope is recognized internationally for its breakthrough myeloma research discoveries and clinical treatments.
  • Our physicians and researchers develop treatments and improve outcomes for patients with myeloma and other plasma cell disorders.
  • City of Hope’s approach to myeloma incorporates our nationally-recognized stem cell transplantation program, with many clinical protocols utilizing the new agents used in treatment of myeloma.

Patients receive care from a multidisciplinary team of professionals, including hematologists and oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, supportive care specialists, dieticians, therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and pharmacists. Each member of the myeloma team focuses on individual treatment plans designed to extend life, as well as supportive care to improve the quality of life for patients and their families during the treatment period.
About Myeloma

  • Myeloma is the second most common type of blood cancer. It affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that normally helps the body protect itself against infection.
  • Plasma cells have the ability to produce antibodies, special proteins that fight bacteria, viruses and other invaders that can harm the body
  • Normally, B-lymphocytes mature into plasma cells. Sometimes, the B-lymphocytes fail to differentiate (or develop) properly into mature plasma cells and form myeloma cells instead. These immature, abnormal cells divide uncontrollably, and become malignant (cancerous). The overabundant myeloma cells begin to crowd out normal cells in the bone marrow, causing problems such as anemia (too few red blood cells), leukopenia (too few white blood cells) or thrombocytopenia (too few platelets that make blood clot).

Multiple Myeloma

  • In the disease called multiple myeloma, malignant plasma cells create multiple tumors (plasmacytomas) within bones and soft tissues. The accumulating plasma cells can lead to bone fractures and increased levels of calcium in the blood. They can also cause problems within organs, especially the kidneys.
  • Solitary plasmacytomas are another type of plasma cell cancer. Instead of multiple tumors, a single tumor can arise in any part of the body. Most people with a solitary plasmacytoma will eventually develop multiple myeloma, and will require close monitoring.
  • Myeloma cells also produce an immunoglobulin protein (antibody) called monoclonal (M) protein, or paraprotein. The presence of M protein is a hallmark of myeloma. Unlike a “good” immunoglobulin, M protein does not protect the body. Because levels of normal antibodies are often low in people with myeloma, they can develop frequent infections.
Related Plasma Cell Disorders

  • Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia is a related disorder in which abnormal plasma cells divide uncontrollably and produce a very large form of M protein. As levels of this protein increase, the blood can become thickened, and the lymph nodes, liver and spleen may become enlarged.
  • Sometimes before multiple myeloma develops, it is preceded by a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). This condition also involves a slight overgrowth of plasma cells. Although the cells produce excess antibody protein, they do not form a tumor, and do not cause symptoms or health problems.
  • However, many people with MGUS eventually develop multiple myeloma, lymphoma or a disease called amyloidosis. People with MGUS do not require immediate treatment, but should be monitored regularly.
Myeloma Risk Factors

Although great efforts have been made in myeloma research, to date no cause for this disease has been identified. However, possible associations have been found between myeloma and several other factors:

  • Age – more than half of cases arise in people over age 71
  • Male gender – men are 50 percent more likely to develop myeloma than women
  • Black heritage
  • Family history – while most patients have no affected relatives, those with an affected sibling or parent are four times as likely to develop the disease compared to the general population
  • Occupational exposure to certain chemicals, particularly petrochemicals
  • Radiation exposure
  • Obesity – a study conducted by the American Cancer Society found that being obese increases the risk of developing multiple myeloma
  • Other plasma cell diseases such as solitary plasmacytomas and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance
Myeloma Symptoms
Symptoms associated with myeloma include:

  • Pain in the bones, especially the back or ribs
  • Bone fractures
  • Weakness, fatigue and a feeling of being unwell
  • Unusual thirst and frequent urination
  • Repeated infections
  • Unusual bleeding, or bruising easily