Mayo Clinic study defines patients at greater risk for developing multiple myeloma and related bone marrow cancers

Study also first to identify reliable predictors for disease progression

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- A Mayo Clinic study, published in the current edition of New England Journal of Medicine, has defined for the first time within a large population the rate at which patients with a monoclonal protein (M-protein) in their blood develop multiple myeloma, a fatal cancer of the bone marrow.

This study of 1,384 patients also is the first to identify reliable predictors for determining the rate of progression of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) to multiple myeloma or related cancers.

The significance of this study is that it now enables physicians to identify which patients are at greater risk for developing multiple myeloma, follow these patients and begin treatment before serious complications occur, says Robert Kyle, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and lead researcher on this study. The goal is to achieve better treatment results and to obtain a better quality of life for the patient.

Unregulated growth of plasma cells in the bone marrow produces the abnormal M-protein. Patients with an M-protein in their blood, but without evidence of multiple myeloma, macroglobulinemia or primary amyloidosis, are considered to have MGUS, a condition that is a precursor to multiple myeloma or related cancers. MGUS is present in approximately two percent of Americans age 50 and older and about three percent of people older than age 70.

The study found the risk of progression of MGUS to multiple myeloma or related cancers is approximately one percent per year. The size of the abnormal M-protein was identified as the most important predictor for progression to malignancy. The progression rate at 20 years was found to be 14 percent for patients with very small protein levels, compared to 60 percent for patients with the highest levels of the M-protein.

Since there is still no means to prevent or cure multiple

Contact: Mary Lawson
Mayo Clinic

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