Multiple myeloma is a cancer that strikes plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that lives inside bone marrow. When people have this disease, their body produces too many abnormal plasma cells.
Fred Hutch is at the forefront of developing treatments for multiple myeloma. Our researchers pioneered bone marrow transplantation, one of the most significant advances in treating myeloma, lymphoma and other blood cancers. Fred Hutch investigators continue to improve bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation for myeloma, making these therapies safer and more effective. We also pioneered the mini-transplant, a gentler version of transplantation that reduces a patient’s radiation exposure to a minimal dose, and we are bringing cutting-edge immunotherapy treatments to myeloma patients.
Our multiple myeloma research begins in the laboratory, where we study the biology of myeloma cells and develop potential new drugs and immunotherapies. It also includes clinical research in which our scientists test new methods for treating and caring for myeloma patients. It spans years and decades as we track survivors’ quality of life after treatment.
Fred Hutch researchers are contributing landmark discoveries about how to engineer immune cells called T cells to target the multiple myeloma. Our scientists are also developing new myeloma drugs based on antibodies, which are disease-targeting immune proteins. We are also leaders in radioimmunotherapy, in which antibodies ferry powerful radioactive isotopes straight to myeloma cells.
Fred Hutch scientists are improving blood stem-cell transplantation to save the lives of more people with multiple myeloma.
We are learning the secrets of immune genetics to find better-matched donors for each patient and developing less toxic transplantation regimens. Our researchers are also developing newer forms of transplantation that can offer a patient a good chance of success even without a fully matched donor.
All of these advances are informed by our research on the fundamental biology of blood-forming cells, the immune system and myeloma itself.
During and after treatment for multiple myeloma, patients can experience numerous side effects that can affect their physical, emotional and social functioning. Fred Hutch scientists are developing supportive care for myeloma patients to protect them from treatment complications and improve their quality of life. They are also studying the long-term and late effects of treatment.
In particular, our scientists are world experts on the complications of blood stem-cell transplantation, including infections and graft-vs.-host disease. Our scientists are learning how these complications occur and developing better methods to prevent and treat them.
Our researchers are developing new ways to empower a patient’s own immune system to do what it does naturally — fight disease — with potentially fewer side effects than conventional cancer treatments. The IIRC is dedicated to creating partnerships across Fred Hutch to develop the next generation of these immunotherapies for cancers and other deadly diseases.
Todd Hirai, a Seattle father of three, thought he'd wrenched his back at baseball practice. But after physical therapy failed to ease his back pain, he learned that he had high-risk multiple myeloma, a diagnosis that is associated with an average survival time of just three years. His only real shot at survival was a three-part treatment sequence that was part of a clinical trial at Fred Hutch, involving two types of bone marrow transplant followed by a cancer-suppressing drug.