Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that is formed by malignancy in plasma cells. Normal plasma cells can be found in bone marrow and are crucial for proper functioning of the immune system. The body's immune system is made up of many different types of cells working together to fight off bacteria and diseases. Lymphocytes are the main cells found in the immune system. The two types of lymphocytes, T and B cells, work together to keep the body healthy.
When the B cells begin to fight off infection, they change into plasma cells. These cells then make immunoglobulin to help the body kill bacteria and germs. Although lymphocytes are also found in the lymph nodes, plasma cells are typically mainly found in bone marrow. When these plasma cells become malignant, they grow out of control and produce tumors called plasmacytomas. When there are several plasma cell tumors growing throughout the bones, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma is made. In this disease, these plasma cells tend to crowd out or overtake normal functioning cells.
Vital research into this disease has been ongoing in many United States based university hospitals and other facilities around the world. Scientists learn more about multiple myeloma each year that studies are performed. There are several new medicines available that are geared toward stopping the growth of these plasma cells in patients with multiple myeloma. Researchers have learned through their studies that the body has certain support tissues for bone marrow. These are called stromal cells and produce interleukin-6 or IL-6. Current research efforts are being done on ways of blocking the function of interleukin-6 since it has shown to be a factor in the growth of multiple myeloma.
RANKL has also been discovered by researchers as a growth factor for the disease. RANKL stimulates cells that are directly responsible for dissolving bones throughout the body. In patients with multiple myeloma, RANKL has shown to be significantly larger than normal. Patients are currently undergoing clinical trials for a new drug that is aimed at blocking RANKL. Studies have shown one drug effective in multiple myeloma. Thalidomide has been used on patients with the disease, although it has been shown to have serious side effects. Researchers are looking at ways of creating new drugs that will work the same as this one, but have fewer or no side effects at all in patients. Lenalidomide has been approved for use in patients with multiple myeloma recently without the side effects of thalidomide. Other medicines are constantly being created and tested for use with this disease.
Other drugs being currently researched include arsenic trioxide and those that completely block the growth of blood vessels. Farnesyl transferase has recently come into light for scientists as a drug that may block the growth of tumors by blocking specific molecules in the tumors. Although research is ongoing and more studies needed, scientists are working on a treatment that involves transplants from a donor for completely replacing the bone marrow in a patient with multiple myeloma.
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