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What is Myeloma?

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Published on July 17, 2020

Is Multiple Myeloma Blood Cancer?

Dr. Paul Richardson from Dana Farber Cancer Institute, explains that multiple myeloma is an immunological blood cancer affecting a patient's most sophisticated B-cells. Plasma cells that normally produce antibodies, will in a diseased state cause infection and dysfunction of the immune system.

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Transcript | What is Myeloma?

Dr. Richardson:
Well, multiple myeloma is an immunological cancer. It's probably the first thing to sort of understand about it. And it's a disease of the most sophisticated B-cell that we have in our body, which is a key component of the immune system. We have T-cells and B-cells, and they're all part of the lymphocyte family, which are very, very important in so many different settings. And the plasma cell is the terminally differentiated B-cell. And it is the most sophisticated. So it produces protein, antibodies specifically, but in the normal state. In the disease state, these become monoclonal, and they're not useful. And as a result of that, infection is a real problem as is, of course, this immune dysfunction that I mentioned already. Myeloma cells, unfortunately, are highly sophisticated. And what they love to do is do clever things inside various processes.

And they, for example, can bury themselves in bone. They can produce protein. They can be very damaging to the kidneys, the lining of the blood vessels, the heart, all sorts of situations. And at the same time, they suppress the normal function of the bone marrow. Patients lose the ability to produce sufficient red cells. They lose the ability to produce sufficient white cells and platelets over time. But by far, the greatest sort of morbidity associated with it is that the bone involvement that I touched on a moment ago. And also effects on the immune system, and in the context of this dysfunction of the immune system, fatigue, inflammation, all of these things that lead to tremendous morbidity from the illness. So myeloma, big challenge, but really good news is lots and lots of new and exciting advances to meet it.

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