Multiple Myeloma Treatments

Multiple Myeloma Treatments

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer which forms on the inside of a plasma cell. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell which helps defend the body against germs. These cells can be found inside the bone marrow; a soft substance inside bones which contains blood. As such, multiple myeloma tumors often grow inside of bones.

Multiple myeloma affects the way plasma cells work. Once cancer forms in a plasma cell, the cell begins to duplicate itself and spread in an uncontrolled manner around the bone marrow. This forms a tumor, which can cause pain and damage to the affected bone, as well as kidney damage and immune system issues.


There is a range of treatments for multiple myeloma. The best treatment will depend on each individual case, with factors such as the stage of the cancer being taken into consideration.

  • Targeted – Targeted treatments involve taking a certain medication that targets certain actions within cancer cells specifically. Proteasome inhibitors are one example of a targeted treatment. These work by preventing cancer cells from breaking down proteins, which causes the cells to die. () and carfilzomib () are two such medications that do this. Click here to see side-effects.
  • Surgery – Surgery is rarely used to treat multiple myeloma since, as its name suggests, there are often multiple tumors to be removed. This makes the surgery more complicated and risky. However, surgery is useful for removing single tumors. Sometimes, surgery may be necessary for emergency situations, such as when tumors near the spine cause numbness or muscle complications. In addition, surgery can be used to implant metal rods into the body which can help strengthen bones.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy drugs are commonly used to treat many forms of cancer. They can be administered either into the vein or muscle via injection or as a pill. They are usually given carefully as side-effects can be severe, including hair loss, nausea, and low blood count. A low blood count can lead to infection and anemia. Commonly, chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells in preparation for a stem cell transplant. Click here to read more about chemotherapy.
  • Radiation – Radiation therapy involves targeting and killing the cancer cells with blasts of high-energy radiation. Protons or X-rays are sometimes used. Typically, radiation therapy can be used to quickly shrink cancer cells in a certain area. For this reason, radiation therapy is a common treatment for single tumors, although it might also be used in an emergency situation to shrink multiple tumors which are at risk of damaging the spine. Most commonly, a beam is fired at the cancer by a machine from outside the body. A course of radiation therapy may take several weeks.
  • Stem cell transplant – There are two types of stem cell transplant: Autologous and Allogenic. An autologous transplant involves doctors extracting healthy stem cells from your own body, killing the cancer with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and then re-inserting the healthy stem cells which the restore normal blood cell production in the bone marrow. An allogenic transplant is similar, except the stem cells come from another person (donor) to the cancer patient (host). This works best if the other person is related to you – a brother or sister, for example. Allogenic transplants are riskier, as sometimes the donor cells will “turn” on the host cells, and begin to attack them. This is known as GVHD and can be life-threatening. Click here to read more about stem cell transplants.

Featured image: Depositphotos / Alexraths


Posted on May 5, 2023