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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Multiple Myeloma

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See our clinical trials for multiple myeloma  

Clinical trials offer you today’s newest drugs and potential breakthrough treatments. Consult with your doctor to see if one is right for you.

cancer research 

Featured publication — Venous thromboembolism in patients with acute leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma  

Our physicians are actively researching the factors contributing to thrombosis and blockage in blood cancers as well as strategies for prevention.

New Patient Support

New patient support 

Peer navigator program provides one-to-one peer support  

This special program matches newly-diagnosed cancer patients with cancer survivors.

Related Resources

multiple myeloma cellMultiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms are diseases in which the body makes too many plasma cells.

Plasma cells develop from B lymphocytes (B cells), a type of white blood cell that is made in the bone marrow.  Normally, when bacteria or viruses enter the body, some of the B cells will change into plasma cells. The plasma cells make a different antibody to fight each type of bacteria or virus that enters the body, to stop infection and disease.  Plasma cell neoplasms are diseases in which there are too many plasma cells, or myeloma cells, that are unable to do their usual work in the bone marrow.  When this happens there is less room for healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This condition may cause anemia or easy bleeding, or make it easier to get an infection. The abnormal plasma cells often form tumors in bones or soft tissues of the body.  The plasma cells also make an antibody protein, called M protein, that is not needed by the body and does not help fight infection. These antibody proteins build up in the bone marrow and can cause the blood to thicken or can damage the kidneys.

The Leukemia, Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma program at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the largest and most comprehensive program of its kind in inland Northern California. It provides the most advanced methods of diagnosis and treatment possible, including new therapies that often aren't available at community hospitals. Our physicians in our Leukemia, Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma program have extensive experience treating both common and uncommon cancers of the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. Our physician-scientists are also at the forefront of research to develop and test new drugs to combat this family of cancers, ensuring that new treatments developed in the lab move quickly to the clinic for the immediate benefit of our patients

Clinical Trials at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has a large clinical trials network. The close collaboration among our doctors and our research scientists means that new drugs and treatments developed in the laboratory can quickly move to the clinic, offering our patients immediate access to the latest therapies.

Risk Factors

Plasma cell neoplasms are found most often in people who are middle aged or older. For multiple myeloma and plasmacytoma, other risk factors include the following:

  • Being black
  • Being male
  • Having a brother or sister who has multiple myeloma
  • Being exposed to atomic bomb radiation

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Signs and Symptoms

  • Bone pain, often in the back or ribs
  • Bones that break easily
  • Fever for no known reason or frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weakness of the arms or legs
  • Feeling very tired

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Diagnosis

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Biopsy: The removal of bone cells, lymph nodes, or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for abnormal cells or signs of cancer.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: The removal of bone marrow, blood, and a small piece of bone by inserting a hollow needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist views the bone marrow, blood, and bone under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.
  • X-ray: An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body. The x-rays are used to find areas where the bone is damaged.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI). An MRI may be used to find areas where the bone is damaged.
  • Complete blood count (CBC) with differential: A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:
    • The number of red blood cells and platelets.
    • The number and type of white blood cells.
    • The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
    • The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells.
  • Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances, such as calcium or albumin, released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it.
  • Blood or urine immunoglobulin studies: A procedure in which a blood or urine sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain antibodies (immunoglobulins). For multiple myeloma, beta-2-microglobulin, M protein, and other proteins made by the myeloma cells are measured. A higher-than-normal amount of these substances can be a sign of disease.
  • Twenty-four-hour urine test: A test in which urine is collected for 24 hours to measure the amounts of certain substances. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it. A higher than normal amount of protein may be a sign of multiple myeloma.
  • Electrophoresis: A test in which a blood or urine sample is checked for M proteins and the amount of M proteins is measured.
  • Cytogenetic analysis: A test in which cells in a sample of blood or bone marrow are viewed under a microscope to look for certain changes in the chromosomes.

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Treatment

Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Other drug therapy

Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy is a treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Proteasome inhibitor therapy and monoclonal antibody therapy are two types of targeted therapy used in the treatment of multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms.

  • Bortezomib is a proteasome inhibitor, which blocks the action of proteasomes in cancer cells and may prevent the growth of tumors.
  • Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibody therapy uses antibodies made in the laboratory, from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
This treatment is a way of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body's blood cells.

Biologic therapy
Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.

Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Surgery
Surgery to remove the tumor may be done, usually followed by radiation therapy. Treatment given after the surgery, to increase the chances of a cure, is called adjuvant therapy.

Watchful waiting
Watchful waiting is closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until symptoms appear or change.

Plasmapheresis
Plasmapheresis is a procedure in which blood is removed from the patient and sent through a machine that separates the plasma (the liquid part of the blood) from the blood cells. The patient's plasma contains the unneeded antibodies and is not returned to the patient. The normal blood cells are returned to the bloodstream along with donated plasma or a plasma replacement. Plasmapheresis does not prevent new antibodies from forming.

Supportive care
This therapy controls problems or side effects caused by the disease or its treatment, and improves quality of lifeSupportive care is given to treat bone problems or amyloidosis related to multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms.

Clinical Trials
The close collaboration among our doctors and our research scientists means that new drugs and treatments developed in the laboratory can quickly move to the clinic, offering our patients immediate access to the latest therapies. UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has a large clinical trials network, allowing our patients access to the newest drugs and therapies before they become widely available. During all stages of your treatment you should talk to your medical specialist about what clinical trials may be available for you.

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Your Team

Hematology/Oncology

Mrinal Dutia, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology

Robert O'Donnell, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology

Carol M. Richman, M.D.
Professor of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology
Director, Stem Cell Transplant Program

Joseph M. Tuscano, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology

Jeanna Welborn, M.D.
Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Medical Director, Bone Marrow Laboratory, Cytogenetics Laboratory  and Therapeutic Apheresis

Ted Wun, M.D.
Associate Dean for Research, School of Medicine
Chief of Hematology Oncology, VA Northern California Health Care System
Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology

Support

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is dedicated to caring for the whole patient.  We offer: