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Multiple 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.
Plasma cell neoplasms can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
There are different types of plasma cell neoplasms and not all of them are cancer. The following types of plasma cell neoplasms are cancer:
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is not cancer but can become cancer.
There are several types of plasma cell neoplasms.
Plasma cell neoplasms include the following:
In multiple myeloma, abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) build up in the bone marrow, forming tumors in many bones of the body. These tumors may prevent the bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells. Normally, the bone marrow produces stem cells (immature cells) that develop into three types of mature blood cells:
As the number of myeloma cells increases, fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are made. The myeloma cells also damage and weaken the hard parts of the bones. Sometimes multiple myeloma does not cause any symptoms. The following symptoms may be caused by multiple myeloma or other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
A tumor can damage the bone and cause hypercalcemia (a condition in which there is too much calcium in the blood). This can affect many organs in the body, including the kidneys, nerves, heart, muscles, and digestive tract, and cause serious health problems.
Hypercalcemia may cause the following symptoms:
In this type of plasma cell neoplasm, the abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) collect in one location and form a single tumor, called a plasmacytoma. A plasmacytoma may form in bone marrow or may be extramedullary (in soft tissues outside of the bone marrow). Plasmacytoma of the bone often becomes multiple myeloma. Extramedullary plasmacytomas commonly form in tissues of the throat and sinuses; these usually can be cured.
Symptoms depend on where the tumor is.
In macroglobulinemia, abnormal plasma cells build up in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen. They make too much M protein, which causes the blood to become thick. The lymph nodes, liver, and spleen may become swollen. The thickened blood may cause problems with blood flow in small blood vessels.
Symptoms of macroglobulinemia depend on the part of the body affected. Most patients with macroglobulinemia have no symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
In this type of plasma cell neoplasm, there are abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow but there is no cancer. The abnormal plasma cells produce M protein that may be found during a routine blood or urine test. In most patients, the amount of M protein stays the same and there are no symptoms or problems. In some patients, MGUS may later become a more serious condition or cancer, such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma.
Multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms may cause a condition called amyloidosis.
In rare cases, multiple myeloma can cause organs to fail. This may be caused by a condition called amyloidosis. Antibody proteins build up and may bind together and collect in organs, such as the kidney and heart. This can cause the organs to become stiff and unable to work the way they should.
Age can affect the risk of developing plasma cell neoplasms.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
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:
Tests that examine the blood, bone marrow, and urine are used to detect (find) and diagnose multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on the following:
Treatment options depend on the following:
After multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms have been diagnosed, tests are done to find out the amount of cancer in the body.
The process used to find out the amount of cancer in the body is called staging. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:
Certain tests may be repeated to see how well the treatment is working.
The stage of multiple myeloma is based on the levels of beta-2-microglobulin and albumin in the blood.
Beta-2-microglobulin and albumin are found in the blood. Beta-2-microglobulin is a protein found on the surface of plasma cells. Albumin makes up the biggest part of the blood plasma. It keeps fluid from leaking out of blood vessels, brings nutrients to tissues, and carries hormones, vitamins, drugs, and other substances, such as calcium, throughout the body. The amount of beta-2-microglobulin is increased and the amount of albumin is decreased in the blood of patients with multiple myeloma.
The following stages are used for multiple myeloma:
Stage I multiple myeloma
Stage II multiple myeloma
Stage III multiple myeloma
The stages of other plasma cell neoplasms are different from the stages of multiple myeloma.
Isolated plasmacytoma of bone
Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance
There are different types of treatment for patients with multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms.
Different types of treatments are available for patients with multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Ten types of standard treatment are used:
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 cerebrospinal fluid, 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
Thalidomide and lenalidomide
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.
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 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 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.
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.
This therapy controls problems or side effects caused by the disease or its treatment, and improves quality of life. Supportive care is given to treat bone problems or amyloidosis related to multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
This summary section describes treatments that are being studied in clinical trials. It may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
New combinations of therapies
Clinical trials are studying different combinations of biologic therapy, chemotherapy, steroid therapy, and drugs such as thalidomide or lenalidomide.
Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. See the Treatment Options section that follows for links to current treatment clinical trials. These have been retrieved from NCI's listing of clinical trials.
Follow-up tests may be needed.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This is sometimes called re-staging.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.
A link to a list of current clinical trials is included for each treatment section. For some types or stages of cancer, there may not be any trials listed. Check with your doctor for clinical trials that are not listed here but may be right for you.
Clinical trials of different combinations of treatment should be considered.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with multiple myeloma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with isolated plasmacytoma of bone. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with extramedullary plasmacytoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Treatment of Waldenström macroglobulinemia may include the following:
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Treatment of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is usually watchful waiting, which will include regular blood tests to check the level of M protein in the blood.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with refractory multiple myeloma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms, see the following:
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This summary was renamed from Multiple Myeloma and Other Plasma Cell Neoplasms.Last Modified: 2011-01-28