Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that develops in the plasma cells found in the soft, spongy tissue at the center of your bones, called bone marrow. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell responsible for producing antibodies which are critical for maintaining the body’s immune system. Through a complex, multi-step process, healthy plasma cells transform in malignant myeloma cells.
Myeloma cells result in the production of abnormal antibodies, or M proteins. A high level of M protein in the blood is the hallmark characteristic of multiple myeloma. Additionally, all myeloma cells are identical to each other and produce large quantities of the same specific M protein. The M proteins offer no benefit to the body, and as the amount of M protein increases, it crowds out normally functioning immunoglobulins. This ultimately causes multiple myeloma symptoms such as bone damage or kidney problems.
Multiple Myeloma typically occurs in bone marrow with the most activity, which is the marrow in the spine, pelvic bones, ribs, and area of the shoulders and hips. Groups of myeloma cells cause other cells in the bone marrow to remove the solid part of the bone and cause osteolytic lesions, or soft spots in the bone, resulting in weakened bones and increasing the risk of fractures.
A multiple myeloma cure has not yet been discovered; however, multiple myeloma is a treatable disease. Multiple Myeloma research, thanks in part to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, has come a long way in developing myeloma treatments. New Myeloma treatments have improved the standard of living for myeloma patients in addition to extending the life expectancy substantially.