Multiple myeloma (MM) is a debilitating type of hematologic (or blood) cancer that affects plasma cells. It is the second most common blood cancer, accounting for 13% of all hematologic cancers and 1% of all cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society estimated that approximately 22,350 new cases of MM were diagnosed in 2013.
MM is characterized by a proliferation of malignant plasma cells, which may in turn interfere with the normal production of blood cells. MM causes significant side effects, such as debilitating bone pain and fractures, anemia, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, renal insufficiency and failure, hypercalcemia and increased chance of infection. The median survival for MM is 7-8 years, and importantly, there is no cure. Additionally, current treatment options – which include chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplantation – can result in severe side effects to the patient. This demonstrates the need for new, effective therapeutic approaches with improved side effect profiles. The medical community has shown growing interest in treating patients in the early stage of MM, called smoldering multiple myeloma, which may have the potential to prevent the progression of this cancer.