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Study Uses Wearable Devices to Monitor Myeloma Patient Health

Study Uses Wearable Devices to Monitor Myeloma Patient Health

Published on December 10, 2020

Wearable Devices Help Multiple Myeloma Doctors Understand Patient Activity, Health and Treatment Response

According to a 2020 Pew Research study, one in five Americans now wear some sort of fitness tracker on a regular basis to monitor heart rate, count steps taken and other activity. One research team wanted to see if these devices could help multiple myeloma patients track their health without frequent check-ins with their medical team.

Neha S. Korde, MD, an assistant professor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, wanted to know how her patients were doing outside of clinic visits and phone calls. As an expert in multiple myeloma, Dr. Korde knows that many patients experience significant pain that can impact their activity levels and reduce their quality of life.

“One of the things that we have noticed in about 60 to 70 percent of patients is that they have what’s called bone lytic disease, which are painful lesions that occur on the bones, and it can limit their mobility,” Dr. Korde said. 

The Mobility Study

Dr. Korde and her research team enrolled 40 newly diagnosed patients with multiple myeloma in a study and remotely monitored their activity (steps taken in 24 hours) for six months using a wearable device. The patients were broken into two groups; group A was younger than age 65 and group B was older than age 65. The patients were not prescribed exercise per se; the idea was to capture each patient’s level of activity based on their own decisions to walk more.

Besides experiencing pain from the disease itself, fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy, and measuring a patient’s level of activity can tell a lot about how they are feeling. These data points may prove to be more reliable than patient-reported outcomes, which can be affected by how a patient feels on the day of a clinic visit and may not tell the whole story.

“We wanted to figure out how to get more objective data to see how patients are moving around and how active they are during chemotherapy,” Dr. Korde said.

It’s well known that exercise is not only beneficial for the physical body but can also help with the anxiety, side effects and sleep disturbances commonly associated with a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment.Wearables for fitness and treatment

Evaluating the Results

Approximately 60 percent of the participants completed the six-month study, which Dr. Korde believes provided enough aggregate data to conclude this as a success.

“We saw that activity improved with treatment. As patients were receiving their chemotherapy, we saw that their step counts were improving,” she said.

The patients in Group B, the older cohort, were more active than the younger group, although the younger group increased their levels of activity too. As a baseline figure, the older group was less active before being monitored and therefore showed greater gains in activity (i.e., number of steps) during the six-month period.

Dr. Korde and her team believe that the symptom burden of multiple myeloma greatly impacts older patients at diagnosis, so these were promising improvements to see.

Bridging the Communication Gap

Dr. Korde presented the team’s initial findings at the annual convention of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), which, like most conventions this year, was hosted completely online.

“What this study is doing, is getting another layer of information,” said Dr. Korde. This allows physicians to get a more complete understanding of a patient’s symptoms and activity levels to improve patient care.

As more data rolls in, Dr. Korde hopes that wearable devices, which collect more information than the occasional clinic visit, will enhance communication between patients and doctors. The more information doctors have, the better they can personalize cancer care and mitigate symptoms and side effects.

Going forward, these technologies might even be used to show doctors how patients are tolerating different chemotherapy regimens. In time, the hope is to weave all of the available information together, including data from wearables, to enhance patient care.

~Lauren Evoy Davis


Korde N, Tavitian E, Derkach, A, et al. 436 Association of Patient Activity Bioprofiles with Hrqol and Clinical Responses: A Prospective Novel Trial Using Mobile Wearables in Newly Diagnosed Multiple Myeloma Patients. American Society of Hematology. 2020.

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