Diseases & Research

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple Myeloma cells

Multiple myeloma (blue cells) within bone marrow.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Hutchinson Center researchers are at the forefront of developing treatments for multiple myeloma, a cancer that strikes plasma cells inside bone marrow.

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Our Key Research

Fast Facts

  • Multiple myeloma is a relatively uncommon cancer that occurs when the body creates too many abnormal plasma cells, also known as myelomas. Plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that lives in bone marrow, help the immune system fight disease by making antibodies that counteract infections.

  • Multiple myeloma primarily strikes elderly patients, with more than two-thirds of diagnoses belonging to people older than 65. The disease is also more common in African Americans.

  • Bone pain, anemia, fatigue and more frequent infections are traits of multiple myeloma.

  • Once deadly, multiple myeloma has become more manageable through innovative new therapies.

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Treatment & Prognosis

Making transplants less toxic – Dr. Rainer Storb and colleagues pioneered the development of a radically different approach to bone marrow transplantation that does not wipe out bone marrow and involves minimal doses of radiation. This non-myeloablative stem cell transplant, or "mini" transplant, is ideal for older patients or those who might not be able to withstand conventional transplants. The procedure does not cause patients to lose their hair or experience severe nausea or other side effects, and can typically be performed without a hospital stay. Learn more »

Improving high-dose chemotherapy – A team led by Dr. William Bensinger has been investigating ways to improve the high-dose chemotherapy that precedes an infusion of the myeloma patient's own stem cells, known as an autologous transplant. One strategy uses a drug called amifostine to shield patients from the damaging effects of melphalan, which is one of the most effective chemotherapeutic drugs for treating myeloma. This technique allows for the patient to receive very high doses of melphalan.

Developing multistep treatments – Research led by Dr. David Maloney has suggested that a multistep treatment approach may be able to improve survival rates for people with multiple myeloma. Maloney's work showed that patients experienced fewer ill effects if they received standard high-dose chemotherapy and a transplant using the patient's own stem cells, followed by a lower-intensity transplant procedure. Learn more »

Treatment Webcasts

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Improving Survival

Keeping cancer away after treatment – Dr. Leona Holmberg and colleagues investigate ways to improve patient response to autologous stem cell transplants—infusions of stem cells taken from a patient’s own body. The researchers are adding "maintenance therapy" after the transplant. This therapy involves biological modifiers, immune stimulators and chemotherapy. Dr. Holmberg and colleagues aim to reduce the relapse rate and improve survival. Relapse is a major concern for autologous transplantation patients.


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