Multiple myeloma is a relatively rare blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow. As these cancerous cells accumulate in the marrow, they crowd out the other healthy blood cells that create antibodies which help us fight off infections. People with Multiple myeloma are at risk for issues with kidney function, anemia, mental fogginess, brittle bones, chronic fatigue and even death.
At the recent Black Health Matters Winter Summit, Dr. Neha Korde of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, discussed Multiple myeloma and the 4 pillars of treatment available.
Today, Multiple myeloma is considered incurable, but it’s very treatable” says Korde. That multidisciplinary therapy approach is built from what Korde calls, the Four Pillars of Treatment.
1. Patient advocacy. Community forums, resources and peer groups are important to getting knowledge out.
2. Access to care. Another reason African Americans fare worse with Multiple myeloma is due to delays in treatment. “Thirty-one percent of African American patients underutilize injection therapies,” Korde said. “This may be because of a lack of access to care.” but when we start therapy earlier, our survival outcomes are often better than that of other races with Multiple myeloma.
For this reason, Korde suggests patients find centers with novel treatments. “Start with your local oncologist,” she said. She also recommends seeking academic centers doing research and organizations such as the International Myeloma Foundation and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, which can help patients find experts. “It takes a village to treat myeloma patients,” she said. “High level expert care is really going to help you.”
3. State of the art diagnostics. Technology has improved detection methods, Korde said. “Multiple myeloma survival outcomes are improving,” she said. “ [with early diagnosis…] Patients are living a lot longer compared to just a couple of decades ago.”
4. Immunotherapy. “We’re using immunotherapies in clinical trials, which is another reason why I recommend patients seek care in a research center,” Korde said, though she realizes black patients are underrepresented in clinical trials. Research shows only about 4 percent to 6 percent of clinical trial participants are African Americans. “Trials are necessary for scientific discovery and research. They really help your doctors help you.”
Next Steps in Multiple Myeloma Therapies
“It’s an exciting time for Multiple myeloma treatment,” Korde said. “We’re looking at CAR-T cells and how can we engage the immune system to attack multiple myeloma.”
If someone has received an MGUS or Multiple myeloma diagnosis, Korde had this advice: “Keep asking questions of your doctors. Empower yourself with knowledge.”