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Multiple myeloma - high quality of life possible thanks to new therapies

  • Every year around 7,000 patients in Germany are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and there is still no cure
  • Thanks to ever better treatment methods, patients can now have a high quality of life despite multiple myeloma
  • Those affected are not alone - relatives, friends, doctors and self-help groups can provide support

September 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of World Blood Cancer Awareness Month, which is all about blood cancer. The aim of this annual month of action is to raise awareness of blood cancer diseases in the population and to educate them about the lives of people with blood cancer as well as about symptoms and treatment options. Even if multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in Germany, it is rare and is usually diagnosed late. A cure is currently not possible, but patients with multiple myeloma can still cope with their everyday lives with an ever-improving quality of life.

Degenerate cells in the bone marrow suppress normal blood formation

Although multiple myeloma (plasmacytoma) is a rare disease overall, it is the second most common form of blood cancer in Germany. In 2017, almost 7,000 people were diagnosed with "multiple myeloma". Most of those affected are a little over 70 years old at the time of diagnosis. 1 The cause of the disease is a degeneration of the so-called plasma cells in the bone marrow. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that produce antibodies to fight viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents. The degenerate plasma cells, also called myeloma cells, multiply in an uncontrolled manner in multiple myeloma. 2

“On the one hand, the uncontrolled increase suppresses normal blood formation. In addition, myeloma cells - unlike healthy plasma cells - are no longer able to form functioning antibodies against infectious agents that penetrate the body. They then produce defective, useless antibodies and additionally suppress the healthy plasma cells. This is noticeable in a worsened immune function, ”explains Dr. Hans Salwender, section head of hematology and section head for multiple myeloma at the Asklepios clinics in Altona and St. Georg in Hamburg. In addition, the degenerate plasma cells form bone-degrading cells, which leads to a thinning of the bones. The consequences are susceptibility to fractures and bone pain. 1

Diagnostic challenges

Multiple myeloma is often diagnosed late, because it can develop without any signs, especially at the beginning of the disease, or the symptoms are general and not always clear. These include B. night sweats, temperature increase or weight loss. 2 Other common symptoms are shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations as signs of anemia, tiredness, a weakened immune system with an increased susceptibility to infections, impaired kidney function, nausea, constipation and confusion as well as the bone pain already mentioned and the increased susceptibility to fractures. 1,2,3

The diagnosis of "multiple myeloma" is usually a massive turning point in the patient's life. Treatment options for multiple myeloma have improved significantly in recent years, but 2,4 a cure is not yet possible today. In addition, Dr. Hans Salwender: "The primary goal in the treatment of multiple myeloma is to stop or at least reduce disease activity in order to keep the disease in check and slow its progression."

After treatment, there may be a relapse, which doctors call relapse. The problem: Each relapse can worsen what is known as the response to the next treatment. 5 Sometimes one can no longer achieve a response with the drugs used, i. H. the disease no longer improves upon treatment. For those with the disease, fear of relapse can severely affect their quality of life. Increasingly, however, new drugs are being developed today that work even after several relapses or if the previous treatment no longer works.

Everyday life with multiple myeloma

Although multiple myeloma has so far not been curable, innovative treatment options can give those affected new hope and offer them the chance of a longer life and, at the same time, a better quality of life. In addition, those affected can also do something themselves. Dr. In addition to a generally healthy lifestyle, Hans Salwender recommends a balanced diet with a high proportion of fruit and vegetables, reducing the risk of infection, drinking enough to support the kidneys, as well as exercise and - after consulting a doctor - sports.

Brigitte Reimann, Chairwoman of the Bundesverband Myelom Deutschland e. V. and herself a myeloma patient, summarizes what, in addition to innovative therapy options, can be helpful for those affected in the event of a relapse or failure to respond. Above all, these are: knowledge about the disease, participation in all examinations for monitoring the course; Support from relatives and friends, the joint therapy decision with the doctors and, last but not least, the exchange with other affected persons, for example in self-help groups.

Her message to myeloma patients: “The fear of a relapse can have a major impact on your life, if not limit it for years. That is why I try to encourage those affected after successful therapy not to forget to go on living. "

GSK in oncology

GSK focuses on increasing patient survival through innovative therapies. GSK's pipeline includes immuno-oncology, cell therapy, cancer epigenetics, and synthetic lethality. The aim is to achieve a sustainable flow of new treatments based on a diversified portfolio of investigational drugs and using modalities such as small molecules, antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates and cells either alone or in combination.

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Last Updated: 23-Sep-2021