Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that develops when healthy plasma cells in the bone marrow mutate and multiply uncontrollably. Myeloma cells overcrowd the bone marrow and suppress the growth of healthy cells that produce blood. Although few patients with multiple myeloma are cured, many treatments are available to manage the disease. Advances made in the development of treatments have made it possible for people with multiple myeloma to live healthy and active lives.

Treatments for multiple myeloma differ from person to person. Factors that will guide your treatment include the stage of the disease, as well as your age, overall health and symptoms. Common treatment options for multiple myeloma include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplantation, used alone or in combination. Because myeloma cells are developed from mutated healthy cells in the body, the immune system may have difficulty recognizing myeloma cells as foreign. Training the immune system to respond to cancer has the potential for a more lasting response that can extend beyond the end of treatment.

Immunomodulating agents are a type of immunotherapy drug used to treat multiple myeloma. Immunomodulators are substances that regulate the function of the immune system and can slow the rate at which cancer cells grow and multiply. These drugs can be effective in treating newly diagnosed multiple myeloma and relapsed or refractory disease. Monoclonal antibodies are also a treatment option. They are laboratory-made versions of immune system proteins designed to attack specific targets called antigens (protein molecules that begin an immune response) that are found on myeloma cells.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are currently approved to treat multiple myeloma and continue to be studied in clinical trials (see Clinical Trials). Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block specific proteins and receptors from triggering a slowdown of the immune system.

Talk to your doctor to see whether a clinical trial is right for you and to discuss all of the treatment options available for your type and stage of multiple myeloma.


FDA-Approved Immunotherapies for Multiple Myeloma
As of 10/20/2017
daratumumab (Darzalex)
elotuzumab (Empliciti)
lenalidomide (Revlimid)
pomalidomide (Pomalyst)
thalidomide (Thalomid)

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