Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that begins in a person's bone marrow.  Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside the bone.  The bone produces many cells in the blood of circulating in out body.  Multiple myeloma is the cancer of the plasma cells.  Below is an image of plasma cells be viewed through a microscope.

Plasma cells are a type of white cell that produces antibodies.  Cancer causes cells to multiply at an abnormal rate.  This what happens in Multiple Myeloma.

Collections of abnormal cells accumulate in bones, where they cause bone lesions (abnormal areas of tissue), and in the bone marrow where they interfere with the production of normal blood cells. Most cases of myeloma also feature the production of a paraprotein, an abnormal antibody that can cause kidney problems and interferes with the production of normal antibodies leading to immunodeficiency. Hypercalcemia (high calcium levels) is often encountered.[1] Myeloma is diagnosed with blood tests (protein electrophoresis, peripheral blood smear), microscopic examination of the bone marrow (bone marrow biopsy), and radiographs of commonly involved bones. Myeloma is generally thought to be incurable, but remissions may be induced with steroids, chemotherapy, thalidomide and stem cell transplants. Newer drugs, such as lenalidomide and bortezomib, are often used in more advanced disease. Radiation therapy is sometimes used to treat bone lesions that are causing symptoms.[1]
The disease develops in 1–4 per 100,000 people per year. It is more common in men, and for yet unknown reasons is twice as common in African Americans as it is in white Americans. With conventional treatment, the prognosis is 3–4 years, which may be extended to 5–7 years or longer with advanced treatments. Multiple myeloma is the second most common hematological malignancy (13%) and constitutes 1% of all cancers.[1]

What are the common lab tests performed in diagnosing and managing multiple myeloma?

A blood test called serum protein electrophoresis separates your blood proteins and can detect the presence of monoclonal proteins (M proteins) — referred to as an "M spike" — in your blood. Parts of M proteins may also be detected in a test of your urine. When M proteins are found in urine, they're referred to as Bence Jones proteins. Monoclonal proteins may indicate multiple myeloma, but also can indicate other conditions.

Monoclonal refers to a set of antibodies. These antibodies are the similar or identical antibodies. The reason behind these being similar antibodies is that they are produced by a single type of immune cell and all of them are clones of a single parent cell. If you give any substance, it is probable to generate monoclonal antibodies that specially bind to that matter. These antibodies can then serve up to sense or purify that matter. These antibodies have become a very important tool in the fields such as medicine, molecular biology and biochemistry.

As a tumor marker: a blood B2Microglobulin test may be ordered to help determine the severity and spread (stage) of multiple myeloma and may sometimes be ordered to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. B2M has been associated with tumor burden, the amount of cancer present, and may be ordered to help evaluate the prognosis of cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Sometimes people with multiple myeloma don't have signs or symptoms. Other times, they may have fever, bruising, bleeding and tiredness. People with multiple myeloma may also have painful bone fractures and damage to organs, especially the kidneys.
Although there is no cure at this time, the latest treatments can help control the disease, relieve pain, limit complications and slow the progress of multiple myeloma in most people. This tremendous progress in treatment means that most people with multiple myeloma live longer than ever before.

Repeated lab tests help the oncologist to know the progression of the Multiple Myeloma and if the treatment is working to control the cancer.

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