Approximately 20,000 new cases of multiple myeloma are diagnosed each year in the United States . It is a cancer that forms in the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell, which produces antibodies to help the body fight off germs and infections.
When the plasma cells reproduce rapidly and become cancerous, these cells tend to collect in the bone marrow, causing the bone marrow to not be able to produce enough red blood cells, platelets or white blood cells. This leads to problems such as anemia, bruising and bleeding, making it hard for the body to fight off the infections. Additionally, it causes bones to become weak and eventually break.
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Treatment options for multiple myeloma can include one or more of the following:
Chemotherapy and Other Specialized Treatments
- Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat multiple myeloma because it enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body to destroy cancerous cells. It is commonly given in combination with other specialized multiple myeloma drugs called corticosteroids, thalidomide, lenalidomide and/or bortezomib.
- Given intravenously, these therapies are given because they strengthen bone and help prevent fractures associated with multiple myeloma. Commonly used bisphosphonates include pamidronate and zoledronic acid.
- This type of treatment is usually reserved for multiple myeloma that has not responded to other treatments. It may be used to treat some areas of bone that still have cancer or relieve pain and other symptoms caused by the spread of the multiple myeloma.
- The use of specialized treatments that produce proteins that are normally found in the body to fight off infections. Interferon is sometimes given to patients to try to slow the growth of myeloma cells. Another biological therapy called erthyropoietin is given to help fight anemia, or increase the levels of red blood cells in the blood.
Stem Cell Transplant
- This form of treatment occurs when high doses of chemotherapy or radiation are given to destroy bone marrow cells (where white blood cells develop) and then are replaced with healthy stem cells, which form new white blood cells, previously removed from the patient or a donor.