Multiple Myeloma Treatment

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You feel fine, but routine lab work shows signs of a condition that could lead to multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. Or you're very sick and facing an advanced stage of multiple myeloma.

No matter where you are on your journey, we have the expertise and support you need.

Treatments for multiple myeloma have advanced significantly in the past decade. This means myeloma can be managed like a chronic condition.

And unlike traditional chemotherapy which makes cancer patients tired and sick, newer drug therapies will make you feel better and able to get back to what you love.

UVA Cancer Center Specialists in Multiple Myeloma Treatment

At UVA Health, you’ll find experts who focus almost exclusively on patients facing the full spectrum of plasma cell disorders, including:

  • Multiple myeloma
  • Smoldering multiple myeloma — precancerous condition that can lead to myeloma
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) — this isn’t cancer but can lead to cancer

At our nationally designated cancer center, you’ll find:

  • Hematopathologists, who specialize in looking at bone marrow tissue and have the expertise to ensure you get an accurate diagnosis for a complex disease
  • Hematology-oncologists, who focus on plasma cell disorders and will make sure you get the best course of treatment
  • Virginia’s most experienced team in treatments that can help keep your blood cancer in remission longer

And, U.S. News & World Report rated our myeloma services as "high performing" for 2023-24.

Why Come to UVA Health for a Second Opinion?

Our myeloma experts are national leaders in the field. Patients travel far for our expertise. Our specialists can:

  • Make sure you have an accurate diagnosis
  • Confirm you're on the best course of treatment that may include targeted biologics
  • See if you qualify for a clinical trial that could give you access to a treatment still being tested
  • Partner with doctors in your community to coordinate care closer to home.

Learn more about second opinions.

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow — the spongy part inside your bones that makes blood cells. This includes plasma cells, which create antibodies to help you fight infection.

With myeloma, plasma cells start to multiply and form a mass or tumors in your bone. These abnormal plasma cells produce large quantities of abnormal antibodies that collect in the blood and urine. Tumors in the bone also prevent your bone marrow from making other types of healthy blood cells.

Who’s Most at Risk for Multiple Myeloma?

No one knows what causes it or how to prevent myeloma. It most commonly occurs in middle aged men, especially among men who are Black.

What Are Symptoms of Myeloma?

You won’t notice any symptoms if you have smoldering multiple myeloma. This is usually discovered by urine and blood tests.

With multiple myeloma, the plasma cell tumor grows and destroys the bone around it. This can lead to bone pain, kidney damage, and a weak immune system.

You might feel persistent, often severe, bone pain — most commonly in the back but also in the legs, arms, or ribs.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Broken bones
  • Repeat infections
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Headache
  • Visual problems
  • Confusion

Targeted Therapies That Work

With myeloma, you’ll likely need lifelong treatment. For some patients, we can closely monitor your condition with regular lab work and check-ups.

Even when we find myeloma at an advanced stage, our patients respond well to standard treatments. We have targeted therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, to help improve your immune system function.

With this type of cancer treatment, you’ll soon start to feel better. This is much different from traditional chemotherapy, which leaves patients feeling sick and too tired to get out of bed. Friends and family will be surprised you’re being treated for cancer.

Once we get your disease under control, you’ll be able to return to work and the things you love. You'll likely need maintenance therapy. And if your disease returns, we can go back to a more aggressive treatment. 

Why Stay at UVA Health for Myeloma Treatment?

Your care will be led by a hematology-oncologist who specializes in plasma cell disorders like myeloma. But you can tap more expertise, like:

  • Radiation oncologists experienced in using radiation to target and shrink tumors in the bone marrow
  • Heart and kidney experts who regularly see patients whose myeloma or plasma cell disorder has led to kidney or heart damage
  • Orthopedic surgeons to repair bones broken by a mass in the bone marrow
  • Neurosurgeons who can help you avoid paralysis if a mass gets too close to a spinal nerve

Future of Myeloma Treatment in Clinical Trials

CAR T-cell therapy is a breakthrough treatment for lymphoma and leukemia and will soon be offered at UVA for multiple myeloma.

Our clinical trial program for myeloma is growing. We strive to offer a trial option for every stage of myeloma. When standard treatments stop working, our patients can probably find a treatment that's only available through a clinical trial.

As a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, UVA offers more than 100 open clinical trials for patients facing cancer. Talk to your doctor to see if you qualify or learn more about clinical trials for cancer.