Not long ago, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma — a cancer of the bone marrow — carried with it a very poor prognosis, with median survival estimates of just two to three years. Now, thanks in large part to research and treatment advances at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), this disease is for many patients a chronic, and more manageable disease, with prognosis now improved to median survivals of seven to ten years.
Here is a look at how DF/BWCC physician-scientists and patients have helped lead the way toward improved treatment for multiple myeloma over the past three decades.
Stem cell transplantation (sometimes called bone marrow transplants) is a treatment for certain forms of cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, as well as other diseases. But before a patient can receive a transplant, stem cells must be collected from a donor (an allogeneic donation) or from the patient (an autologous transplant). Read more
By Christine Cleary
The 21st century has seen great strides in treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow once considered a death sentence. In fact, thanks to research by Dana-Farber scientists, this blood cancer that took the lives of Geraldine Ferraro and Leonard P. Zakim has become a chronic disease for many patients. Read more
By Maria Pearson
As a technology teacher who had a long career with IBM before going into education, I have encountered all sorts of opportunities to teach – and to learn. The biggest such opportunity of my life occurred at the intersection of cancer, technology, and Dana-Farber.
In August 2010, I was diagnosed with stage III multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. No search engine was adequate in comforting my fears of life expectancy, treatment, or facing a stark life-altering challenge.
When Ken Anderson, MD, began working on multiple myeloma four decades ago, the disease, a cancer of the bone marrow, was untreatable. “People died within months,” says Anderson.
Today, the story is very different. In the past decade, eight new multiple myeloma treatments have been approved. Survival has doubled. “When we see new patients, we can look them in the eye and say it’s likely you will live a decade or longer with modern therapies,” says Anderson, who recently received a 2012 Medal of Honor award from the American Cancer Society for his contributions to these advancements. “And that’s continuing to improve.”
By James Bond
“How long will I live?” I asked my oncologist in Ohio in 1992, when I was 44 and diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
“Three years,” he answered.
Instead, I enjoyed 10 more years of active living. Then my disease began to overtake me; my kidneys were failing, I was unable to eat solid foods, and I had fevers of 105 degrees.
Having already had three stem cell transplants, I seemed to be out of options. My wife Kathleen and I were advised to seek hospice care. Read more