8. It’s treatable, not curable
The most common multiple myeloma treatment has typically been chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplants. Because the disease is not curable, this method of treatment aimed to create longer and longer stretches of time during which it did not progress. However, significant advances in research have dramatically changed not only the prognosis but the treatment that is offered. In fact, treatments have advanced so much that there is increasing discussion among the scientific community as to whether a stem cell transplant should be done after diagnosis or if it is better to wait until relapse occurs.
Scientists are currently experimenting with different combinations of medications to increase the survival rate. For example, efforts are being made to combine certain medicines associated with diminished side effects and longer stretches of progression-free survival (PFS). Other drugs are being studied to see how they can work with the body’s immune system to fight the disease.’It’s a massive convergence of our understanding of biology, the technology becoming available to understand myeloma cells and how they respond, the genetic subtypes of myeloma, the ability to engage both the patient community and researcher, to transfer data and information’, says Walter Capone, president and CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, in an article with Cure.
9. There’s an international support network
The International Myeloma Foundation—while not an official sponsor of the more than 150 multiple myeloma support groups around the world—conducts yearly conferences for support group leaders. Information on support groups according to an individual’s geographical location can be found on the IMF website.
10. The survival rate continues to increase
According to Cancer Research UK (which used data from 2010-2011), 78 percent of men diagnosed with the disease survive for at least one year and 50 percent survive for five years or longer. For women, that number is 75 percent for one year and 44 percent for at least five years or longer.
In the United States, researchers reported that a ‘newly diagnosed myeloma patient 15 years ago, for example, was about one-third as likely as someone without myeloma to live another five years’. Those same researchers found that ‘[b]y the end of the 2000s, in contrast, that same myeloma patient would be 45 percent as likely as someone without myeloma to live another five years’. According to the American Cancer Society, the median survival rate for Stage I is 62 months; Stage II, 44 months; and Stage III, 29 months.
With advances in treatment, as well as ongoing clinical studies, those prognoses continue to increase. In fact, the prognosis today of someone diagnosed with the disease is nearly triple what it once was.