Multiple Myeloma: A Clinical Overview
By Kenneth C. Anderson, MD1 | November 7, 2011
ABSTRACT: Multiple myeloma (MM) is the second most common hematologic malignancy in the United States, affecting slightly more men than women and twice as many African Americans as Caucasians. Older age is the primary risk factor for MM, but obesity also increases risk. MM is incurable, but treatment advances in the past decade have more than doubled the duration of survival. MM is a progressive plasma cell tumor in which an initially stable clone becomes malignant via a multistep process. Causative factors implicated in this process include radiation, environmental toxins, chronic antigen stimulation, and genetics. The malignant plasma cells interact with other hematopoietic and stromal cells within the bone marrow microenvironment to disrupt homeostasis among cells and within the extracellular matrix. These tumor-host interactions lead to MM cell proliferation and migration, angiogenesis, osteolysis, immunodeficiency, and anemia. As a result, patients often present with osteolytic bone lesions, recurrent infections, renal insufficiency, and fatigue. The Durie-Salmon and International Staging Systems are used to stage MM, with the latter providing prognostic information based on readily available laboratory data. However, a number of cytogenetic markers are emerging as prognostic indicators, introducing the possibility of more refined disease staging systems and tailored treatment strategies based on genetic profiles.
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