Brokaw Diagnosis: What is Multiple Myeloma?

NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, 74, revealed this week he has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. The disease, also known as plasma cell myeloma, will be diagnosed in more than 24,000 Americans this year.

Multiple myeloma develops when the body makes too many plasma cells. As these excess plasma cells build up, tumors form in bones or soft tissue. These abnormal plasma cells also prevent the body from making enough healthy red and white blood cells.

Although some patients have no symptoms, signs of multiple myeloma can include bone pain (often in the back or ribs), bones that break easily, fever, frequent infections, easy bruising or bleeding, trouble breathing, weakness of the arms or legs, and fatigue. The disease can be treated using various chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy, as well as stem cell transplants.

(From L-R) Ken Anderson, MD, Paul Richardson, MD, and Nikhil Munshi, MD
(From L-R) Ken Anderson, MD, Paul Richardson, MD, and Nikhil Munshi, MD

Multiple myeloma has become a more manageable illness thanks to the efforts of doctors and researchers, including groundbreaking work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. New therapies developed by Ken Anderson, MD, Paul Richardson, MD, Nikhil Munshi, MD, and others, have improved treatments and survival rates for patients.

In addition to these recent advances, Richardson, Anderson, Munshi and their colleagues continue multiple myeloma research through dozens of clinical trials.

“Recent developments with novel, biologically-targeted therapies and improvements with stem cell transplantation for younger patients have resulted in a very encouraging trend for improved survival in multiple myeloma patients overall,” says Richardson, clinical director for the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center Jerome Lipper Center for Multiple Myeloma, and the R.J. Corman Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School.  “The disease remains very challenging, but new studies and research point to longer remissions and better quality of life for this otherwise incurable hematologic malignancy.”

For more information, visit our Multiple Myeloma Program website

3 thoughts on “Brokaw Diagnosis: What is Multiple Myeloma?”

  1. Living with MM today can be challenging but with the advancements we’ve seen just in the last few years there is hope for longer longevity. Each case is unique in its own way. From someone that has been living with this for the past 4 years and over 2 years post transplant (thanks to Dana Farber). I can tell you it’s a very complicated disease for both the patient and doc’s. Sometimes I think it more difficult for the caregivers then the actual patient. My hopes and prayers go out to Mr Brokaw and those around him.

  2. Thanks to Paul Richardson and his Dana Farber colleagues, I have actively survived MM for over 21 years. Dana/s patient site contains much of our story. I also survived treatment’related leukemia diagnosed in 2012. Again, Dr Richardson and his colleagues played a key role in my achieving remission from leukemia.Keys to my survival are: second opinions at leading mm centers such as Dana, exercising (I cycle 328 miles each summer in the American Cancer Society Pan Ohio Hope Ride, partnering with your medical team, clinical trials (I have done 6 so far), staying current on developments, and being blessed with a great caregiver. My wife, Kathleen, is world-class. Yes, I am fortunate, but have given luck a chance by doing the above. Others can do the same. No guarantees, much like life itself. Contact me if you like. I am 65 and live in Ohio

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