Myeloma is a disease in which cancerous plasma cells appear in bone marrow.
The most common form of the disease is known as multiple myeloma as most patients are found to have it in multiple sites, throughout the body, at the time of diagnosis.
Marshfield Clinic has the most cancer specialists in the region for diagnosis and treatment of myeloma.
Chemotherapy is common in the treatment of myeloma. Chemotherapy drugs interfere with the growth of cancer cells, eventually causing the cells to die.
Most patients with myeloma are initially treated with some form of chemotherapy. Marshfield Clinic uses these treatment options:
Biologic therapy: also called immunotherapy, is a form of cancer treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer.
It is generally used together with other cancer treatments to improve treatment effectiveness or to decrease side effects.
Targeted therapies: this term describes drugs that target various proteins that contribute to the growth of cancer.
Unlike chemotherapy drugs that kill both healthy and cancer cells, targeted therapies selectively kill only cancer cells, which decrease side effects.
Anti-angiogenesis drugs: the formation of new blood vessels feeding tumors is called angiogenesis. Anti-angiogenesis drugs work by cutting off a tumor's blood supply so the tumor starves and is prevented from growing and/or spreading.
High-dose chemotherapy: administering of chemotherapy at doses higher than that used in conventional chemotherapy are often used in the treatment of myeloma.
High-dose chemotherapy is more effective in killing myeloma cells than conventional chemotherapy but it also destroys normal blood-forming cells in the bone marrow.
Because of this, high-dose chemotherapy is always administered with a stem cell transplant, which replaces these important cells.
Stem Cell Transplantation
As radiation and chemotherapy attack cancer cells, they also destroy stem cells. Therefore, physicians may use stem cell transplantation to rebuild a patient's supply of those cells.
Before chemotherapy, doctors give the patient medication to increase the number of stem cells in the blood, and then draw blood. After the stem cells are removed, the blood is returned to the body.
Types of stem cell transplantation include:
- Autologous stem cell transplants are performed when high doses of chemotherapy are used to treat cancer. The chemotherapy drugs can destroy the patient's bone marrow, so some stem cells are taken from the blood stream (apheresis) prior to treatment.
The stem cells are frozen and the patient is given high-dose chemotherapy to treat the cancer. The stem cells are then thawed and given back through a catheter to replace what was destroyed.
Autologous stem cell transplant is frequently used in the management of multiple myeloma.
- Allogeneic stem cell transplants refer to stem cells that are taken from one person and given to another. With these transplants, the donor's cells must match the recipient's.
In many cases, the stem cell donor is related to the recipient, typically a brother or sister. However, stem cells from unrelated donors can be used if the tissue types matches.
It may also be possible to use cells from banked cord blood. Allogeneic stem cell transplant is still under investigation for myeloma.
In myeloma, patients receive
radiation from outside the body. External beam radiation, as it is called, involves the use of a machine that directs the high-energy rays at the body.
The treatments can be directed at a specific area of bone affected by myeloma.