Myeloma

Myeloma (or multiple myeloma) is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells.

What is myeloma?

Myeloma is a cancer of the blood’s plasma cells, which is a type of white blood cell found in bone marrow. Plasma cells are an important part of the immune system and help your body fight off infection (also called immunoglobulins). Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, which is found in multiple areas of the body (hence the name multiple myeloma).

Myeloma cells are abnormal plasma cells which multiply rapidy and produce an abnormal antibody known as paraprotein. Myeloma is often diagnosed through the measurement of this paraprotein.1

Each year, 100 new cases of multiple myeloma are diagnosed.2

Signs and symptoms of myeloma

Symptoms of myeloma include:

  • bone pain
  • bone fractures
  • tiredness (due to anaemia)
  • frequent or recurrent infections (such as bacterial pneumonia, urinary tract infections and shingles)
  • kidney damage
  • high level of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia).

Stages of myeloma

The stages of multiple myeloma are based on the Revised International Staging System (R-ISS). 3

The stages range from stage 1 (early stage myeloma) through to stage 3 (more advanced myeloma).

This staging system is based on following four features: 3

  • The chromosomal changesthat have affected the abnormal genes – which can be tested via cytogenic testing. There are three chromosomal changes that are considered ‘high risk’ for a poorer outcome of myeloma:m issing pieces of chromosome 17, translocation (exchange of pieces of material) between chromosomes 4 and 14, and translocation between chromosomes 14 and 16.3
  • The level of lactic dehydrogenase (LDH)in the blood. LDH is an enzyme involved in cell metabolism. A high LDH suggests the disease is more advanced.4
  • The amount of albumin(type of protein) in the blood. Lower levels of albumin are seen in myeloma. 4
  • The amount of beta-2-microglobulin (type of protein made by myeloma cells) – higher levels of this protein is associated with a poorer prognosis. 4

Treatment

References

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