Larry Anderson, M.D., Ph.D. Answers Questions On: Myeloma
How does myeloma affect the kidneys?
The protein made by myeloma plasma cells tends to “gum up” some patients’ kidneys, causing them to malfunction.
In those cases, we treat the myeloma to reduce the protein levels. If we catch the problem early, we can often improve patients’ kidney function enough to either prevent them from going on dialysis or get them off of dialysis.
What are some common misconceptions about myeloma?
Many people think that a bone marrow transplant involves major surgery, but it’s actually performed like a blood transfusion.
We collect peripheral blood stem cells from the blood and then put them back into the blood with growth-factor injections.
Another misconception is that the stem cells attack the myeloma. What really happens is that we give patients the chemotherapy drug melphalan to wipe out as many of the residual myeloma cells as possible.
The transplant replaces their bone marrow and helps recover their blood cell production.
What other plasma cell cancers do you treat?
Aside from myeloma, Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (WM) and amyloidosis are the next most common conditions I treat.
WM is a plasma cell cancer of the bone marrow that secretes a protein called IgM. The disease typically causes anemia and raises the risk for hyperviscosity syndrome – IgM-caused “sludging” of the blood – which can result in headaches, nosebleeds, and blurry vision.
Amyloidosis is a disorder in which plasma cells make proteins – the most common of which is called light chains – and these get into organs such as the heart and kidneys and cause decreased function.
We treat both conditions very much like we treat myeloma but with some specific differences. We can also treat both amyloidosis and WM with autologous stem cell transplantation.