Myeloma and Stem Cells

Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer of the blood specifically affecting white blood cells. The condition gets its name from the fact that multiple places in the body can be affected where bone marrow is normally active.[1]

White blood cells are a crucial part of your immune system, producing antibodies to fight infection. In myeloma, plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) become abnormal and multiply uncontrollably. In addition, these cells only release paraprotein, a kind of antibody which has no useful function.[1]

Myeloma is a cancer which is relapsing-remitting in nature. This means that there are periods where symptoms are apparent and need treatment, followed by periods of remission where the cancer does not cause symptoms and does not require treatment.[2]

Myeloma Facts

  • An estimated 103,000 people were diagnosed with the condition, worldwide, in 2008 [3]
  • In 2008, the condition accounted for 12% of all blood cancers diagnosed [3]
  • In 2008, the condition accounted for 1% of all cancers diagnosed [3]
  • In the UK, it is the 14th most common cancer amongst men and 17th most common cancer amongst women [3]
  • In the UK, just under 5,000 people a year are diagnosed [3]
  • In England and Wales more than 75% of people diagnosed will survive a year or more after diagnosis [4]
  • In England and Wales almost 50% of people diagnosed will survive five years or more after diagnosis [4]
  • In England and Wales more than 30% of people diagnosed will survive ten years or more after diagnosis [4]
  • Approximately 84,000 people in Europe have myeloma [2].
  • There are currently 767 clinical trials investigating the application of stem cells for treatment [5].
  • There are currently 59 clinical trials investigating the application of cord blood stem cells for treatment [6].

Myeloma and Stem Cells

An autologous stem cell transplant uses a patient’s own stem cells which are harvested before treatment. There are several sources of autologous stem cells including; bone marrow, peripheral blood and cord blood. Autologous stem cell transplants allow patients to receive high-dose chemotherapy to kill off cancer cells before their cells are returned to them to rebuild their immune system.

Autologous stem cell transplants are the most common kind of transplants carried out in myeloma cases. Autologous stem cell transplants remove the bulk of myeloma through induction treatment, followed by chemotherapy to kill the remaining cancerous cells. The patient’s stem cells are then returned where they can rebuild the immune system. This method of treatment has the ability to kill more cells than low dose chemotherapy.[7]


  8. Frontiers in pediatrics7, 443.
  9. Lancet (London, England), 399(10322), 338–339.
  10. Lancet (London, England), 399(10322), 372–383.

The information contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical expert. If you have any concerns about your health we urge you to discuss them with your doctor.



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