Highlighting Resiliency During Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month 2021

Multiple myeloma is not easily diagnosed, and its early symptoms may be confused for another condition.

Each March, Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month puts multiple myeloma (MM) in the spotlight. A rare cancer, MM is not easily diagnosed early on, but it is the second most common blood cancer in the world with 130,000 new cases diagnosed yearly.

Congress first recognized March as Myeloma Awareness Month in 2014, but the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) was the first organization to declare March as Myeloma Awareness Month in 2009. Now it calls the month Myeloma Action Month. In 2021, IMF is focusing on resilience.

“The IMF sees that those in the myeloma community are resilient on a daily basis, and also recognizes that people do not need to feel resilient all the time,” IMF said in a press release. “This year proves especially timely for the theme of resilience, as the world continues to cope with the stress of the pandemic.”

Janssen Pharmaceutical noted that because the symptoms of MM can start gradually, patients may wait before seeing a doctor. In addition, the symptoms can be general: Instead of being specific to only MM, the symptoms could occur in other conditions. As a result, MM is often diagnosed later than is optimal.

“March is Myeloma Action Month, and it’s a time to reflect on the past and what we achieved as well as look forward to what lies ahead,” said Susie Durie, president and CEO of the IMF. “This past year has been challenging for several reasons, including the global pandemic that we are all in at the moment.”

The main therapies to treat MM include:

  • Proteasome inhibitors—bortezomib, carfilzomib, and ixazomib
  • Immunomodulatory drugs—thalidomide, lenalidomide, and pomalidomide
  • Monoclonal antibodies—daratumumab, elotuzumab, isatuximab-ifrc
  • Histone deacetylase inhibitor—panobinstat
  • Corticosteroids—dexamethasone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone
  • Chemotherapy—cyclophosphamide, melphalan, and bendamustine

A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine identified a chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy in a phase 2 trial that more than tripled the expected length of remission for patients with MM who have relapsed on previous lines of therapy.