What Is Multiple Myeloma?

As explained by American Cancer Society, "multiple myeloma" is a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system.

The immune system is made up of several types of cells that work together to fight infections and other diseases. Lymphocytes (lymph cells) are the main cell type of the immune system. The major types of lymphocytes are T cells and B cells.

When B cells respond to an infection, they mature and change into plasma cells. Plasma cells make the antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) that help the body attack and kill germs. Lymphocytes are in many areas of the body, such as lymph nodes, the bone marrow, the intestines, and the bloodstream. Plasma cells, however, are mainly found in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside some hollow bones. In addition to plasma cells, normal bone marrow has cells that make the different normal blood cells.

When plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, they can produce a tumor called a plasmacytoma. These tumors generally develop in a bone, but they are also rarely found in other tissues. If someone has only a single plasma cell tumor, the disease is called an isolated (or solitary) plasmacytoma. If someone has more than one plasmacytoma, they have multiple myeloma.

In health buzz, Keith Stewart, MB, ChB, recently discussed treatment decisions centered around the care of patients with multiple myeloma, including the roles of autologous stem cell transplant and MRD testing. Stewart, Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Professorship in Cancer Research, Dean for Research, Mayo Clinic, explained his treatment decisions in 2 case scenarios during a Targeted Oncology live case-based peer perspectives dinner. Find out more at Targeted Oncology.