Posts Tagged ‘multiple myeloma FAQs’

Treatment for Multiple Myeloma at Emory – Real Patient Story

myeloma_mooney_coverCathy Mooney shares her multiple myeloma patient story. Treatment for multiple myeloma is the topic very relevant to even those who consider themselves a “health nut” or a “gym rat”. This article shares a story of how one health-conscious young lady had to undergo a treatment for multiple myeloma at Emory.

Cathy Mooney didn’t need a wake-up call. In 2002, at 48 years old, “I felt like I was at the top of my game,” she says. “I was exercising regularly, walking four miles five days a week. I was following a great diet. I had really never been in better health.” But a routine physical exam turned up some troubling results, and a long series of visits to specialists and tests followed. After a frustrating three months, Mooney heard two words she never knew before: multiple myeloma.

“I learned that the survival rate was three to five years,” she says. “We were devastated. I felt wonderful; I did not feel sick.” Mooney received an advise to travel from her home in Thomasville, Georgia, to Little Rock, Arkansas. There was a center specializing in myeloma.

For several years she received the following treatment there:

  • chemotherapy
  • autologous stem cell transplantation
  • maintenance medications

Although her cancer could be coaxed into remission, it kept coming back.

In 2008, Mooney and her husband flew north to visit myeloma specialists at Sloan Kettering and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The latter was Ken Anderson, who had been following Lonial’s progress at Winship. Both told Mooney that she could get the best, most current treatment in her home state of Georgia.

“When we went to Emory and met with Dr. Lonial and his team, we found him to be a compassionate person who cared and was passionate about finding a cure for multiple myeloma,” Mooney says. “He’s such a respected doctor in this field, one of the top in leading research and a rising star.”

Since Mooney’s diagnosis, her twin daughter and son have married and had children of their own. Her five grandchildren are a constant delight.

“This year was 14 years since my diagnosis, which is a lot more than I hoped for,” she says. “I’m feeling great. The cancer has given me an opportunity to reassess my life and set new priorities. And Winship gives me hope for a bright future.”

How We’re Working to Cure Multiple Myeloma

Over the past ten years, I have seen the treatment of multiple myeloma dramatically improve because of new drug therapies that have come out of clinical trials. I am now leading a clinical study to learn more about the genetic components of multiple myeloma and how we can use that knowledge to come up with better, more targeted drugs and individualized therapies for patients. I think this landmark study will lead to treatments that effect long-term remission, or even cure, from the cancer.

In the CoMMpass study, launched by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, we will follow 1,000 newly diagnosed patients with multiple myeloma over the course of eight years. We will study the genomic changes in their disease while they receive frontline treatments, and continue studying those changes through remission stages or relapse. One of the questions we hope to answer is why some patients do well on a specific drug, while others do not and may need multiple drugs to keep their myeloma from advancing.

The first step in the study is mapping out the molecular characterization of a patient’s tumor using sequencing at the time of initial diagnosis, and then following what happens in the sequencing information during and after treatment. If the disease comes back, we want to know if there were changes in the disease or new mutations that were influenced by the therapy or by the original mutations themselves?

As we learn more about cancer and its various types, we do less lumping them together and more splitting them into individual diseases. Lymphoma is a good example. It used to be that the disease was characterized as six or seven different types, and now we know there are at least 50 different variations of lymphoma. We look at the molecular characterization of lymphoma and create subtypes that are potentially treated in different ways. We may need to do that in myeloma. In the CoMMpass study, we will be able to have individual tumor specimens molecularly sequenced, which has never been done before, and we will learn much more about the cancer and its number of subtypes.

We are also looking at the impact of side effects on quality of life issues in this trial. There may be molecular characteristics of a patient’s tumor that can tell us whether that patient will have side effects from a specific treatment, so mapping a patient’s molecular subtype might influence the type of drugs he gets.

We have seen the life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients double in the last ten years. I think that there are probably some patients we are curing now and I believe that CoMMpass will help us to identify the best drugs and the best targets to increase the cure rate in this disease. We hope this study will help push the barrier to cure even further, but do it in a way that does not compromise a patient’s quality of life.

To learn more, watch this video as Dr. Lonial further explains Multiple Myeloma and treatment options for the diease.

Multiple Myeloma Online Chat

Multiple Myeloma Chat Sign UpWant to learn more about multiple myeloma? Join expert physician, Jonathan Kaufman, MD, for a live web chat on March 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST. Dr. Kaufman will be there to answers all your questions about known risks, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma. Bring your questions and prepare for a great discussion!

Multiple Myeloma Chat Sign Up

About Dr. Sagar Lonial

Dr. Sagar LonialDr. Lonial is Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and Director of the Translational Research for the B-Cell Malignancy Program. He is also a professor in the Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Lonial’s research focuses on combination therapy in B-cell malignancies focusing on myeloma. He is a trained bone marrow transplant physician with an interest in molecular therapy for lymphoma and myeloma. His clinical interests include evaluating the combination of new molecular targeted agents for B-cell tumors as well as target discovery and validation.

Dr. Lonial has authored or coauthored over 200 publications and recently was awarded the Celgene ‘Young Investigator’ Award, the MMRF ‘Top 15 Innovator’ Award, and the MMRC ‘Center of the Year’ award.

He earned his medical degree from the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, followed by a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related Links
Understanding Multiple Myeloma
Phase I Trials – Where All Anticancer Drugs Begin

 

Understanding Multiple Myeloma

While still a relatively uncommon cancer, multiple myeloma has recently received attention surrounding the diagnosis of popular news reporter, Tom Brokaw. This year, an estimated 24,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and there are about 77,600 people now living with this blood cancer.

About Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that forms because of a disorder in the plasma cells, which live in the bone marrow and are the producers of antibodies. These antibodies are what provide protection from infections after vaccination, but in myeloma, the plasma cells become malignant and grow out of control, crowding out the normal bone marrow.

When plasma cells grow uncontrolled by the normal immune system, the consequences can include:

  • Anemia, a condition caused by low red blood cell counts due to crowding in the bone marrow.
  • Bone lesions, as myeloma cells like to create “holes” in the bones.
  • Kidney problems, because the antibodies produced by the plasma cells can clog up the kidneys.
  • Elevated blood calcium level, typically as a consequence of the bone issues.

Multiple Myeloma Symptoms

The most common symptoms for patients are typically fatigue, weakness, bone pain, anemia, or frequent unexplained infections. Multiple myeloma affects both men and women but is more common in men and there is a higher occurrence of multiple myeloma among African Americans than among Caucasians.  It is a disease typically seen in patients who are older than age 65, although it occurs in African-American patients about ten years earlier, and it affects a fair number of younger patients.

Multiple Myeloma Treatment

Treatment for patients with multiple myeloma has changed dramatically over the past decade. As we have developed more effective drugs to target the plasma cells, we also have significantly improved overall survival. Fifteen years ago, the average survival was 3 to 4 years, whereas the average survival is now over 7 years, and for many patients, expected survival is more than 10 years.

The keys to this improvement in overall survival are related to several factors. First, we have better tools to combat myeloma. There have been 6 new drugs approved for treating myeloma over the past decade, and these agents are more effective at treating the disease than the standard mixtures of chemotherapy we had before. The second factor that has improved survival for certain patients is the use of high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation, in which the patient’s own stem cells are given back to the patient’s body after receiving high-dose chemotherapy. Finally, we now have a better understanding of the biological changes that occur in a myeloma cell and this is helping us to better target treatment needed among these patients.

As we discover new tools and expand the options available for treating multiple myeloma, we see encouraging advancements in both survival and quality of life for these patients. The multidisciplinary treatment team at Winship at Emory has been recognized as a national and international leader in both transplant and non-transplant based approaches to treatment therapies, patient outcomes and clinical trials.

Multiple Myeloma Online Chat

Multiple Myeloma Chat Sign UpWant to learn more about multiple myeloma? Join expert physician, Jonathan Kaufman, MD, for a live web chat on March 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST. Dr. Kaufman will be there to answers all your questions about known risks, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma. Bring your questions and prepare for a great discussion!

Multiple Myeloma Chat Sign Up

About Dr. Sagar Lonial

Dr. Sagar LonialDr. Lonial is Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and Director of the Translational Research for the B-Cell Malignancy Program. He is also a professor in the Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Lonial’s research focuses on combination therapy in B-cell malignancies focusing on myeloma. He is a trained bone marrow transplant physician with an interest in molecular therapy for lymphoma and myeloma. His clinical interests include evaluating the combination of new molecular targeted agents for B-cell tumors as well as target discovery and validation.

Dr. Lonial has authored or coauthored over 200 publications and recently was awarded the Celgene ‘Young Investigator’ Award, the MMRF ‘Top 15 Innovator’ Award, and the MMRC ‘Center of the Year’ award.

He earned his medical degree from the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, followed by a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.