Long-term survival in myeloma is (finally) linked to a strong immune system…And my new discovery…

Many many years ago, when I first embarked upon my smoldering myeloma journey, I joined a couple of online myeloma support groups. I still belong to one of them, the smaller, friendlier one (“friendlier” to scientifically-backed, nontoxic, anti-myeloma substances such as curcumin, I mean…).

It’s in the bigger group, though, that I first witnessed something getting repeated over and over again…Namely, that myeloma folks shouldn’t do anything to boost their immune systems…This no-to-boosting-the-immune system theory was fiercely defended by some outspoken members of the group…And you know how it goes: if something gets repeated over and over (and over!), it can eventually become believable…as unbelievable as it might be… 

The theory supporters maintained that if you give a boost to the immune system, you also give a boost to your myeloma cells, since myeloma is a cancer born and bred inside the immune system. 

These patients therefore kept telling me that I was crazy to take curcumin because it boosted my immune system and, consequently, my MM cells. But that made no sense to me, in part because of my own experience with a chronic yeast infection that simply disappeared soon after I began taking curcumin (note: curcumin accomplished what heaps of antibiotics with all their side effects had not…), in part because my MM markers had improved, too. And so I ignored their warnings and kept taking curcumin…

Eight years later, it appears that I was right… :)

A few days ago I came across this Myeloma Beacon article about immune function: http://goo.gl/Po3DrU

Excerpt: Results from a small Australian study provide new evidence that the immune systems of myeloma patients may play an important role in why some patients survive much longer than others. In particular, the Australian researchers found that myeloma patients who live for more than 10 years after diagnosis have more robust immune function as compared to other myeloma patients.

So it seems that the MM patients who survive the longest have the strongest immune systems…

Vindication…so sweet! :)  And really, when you think about it, since so many MM patients are plagued by (and often succumb to, unfortunately) chronic infections and diseases, doesn’t it make more sense for them to have a strong immune system that will help their bodies fight these pathogens?

Okay, let’s get back to the article now…

It mentions two immune-boosting conventional drugs, thalidomide and pomalidomide (the latter is a derivative of thalidomide…). But let me mention something else–as I mentioned above, curcumin boosts immunity, too, as do a lot of the other nontoxic substances I’ve researched and discussed here on the blog…Some are substances that I take every day, in addition to curcumin, of course…such as Nigella sativa. 

Another interesting tidbit (scroll down to “Study results”): the researchers in the myeloma immune system study found that 100% of long-term MM survivors (long-term = 10 years or more…) possessed killer cell clones, compared to only 54% and even 48% of short-term survivors. And that is why they concluded that long-term survival may be linked to higher immune system activity against myeloma. Hah.

The Beacon article is easy to read…If, however, you feel up to checking out the source, then click here for the full study: http://goo.gl/KbvhKe

I’d now like to give you the link to a relevant post written by Dr. Brian Durie (whom I met here in Florence several years ago, btw) on immune function: http://goo.gl/nq36xM

Important excerpt: The key point for myeloma research is that inactivation of T-lymphocyte cells and natural killer cells–which should be killing myeloma cells–occurs through a mechanism called the PD-1/PD-L1 system.

He explains this PD-L1 (= programmed death – 1 ligand) process well, so I don’t need to go over it. All we really have to remember, though, is that PD-L1 is BAD news for us but GOOD news for myeloma cells. It’s therefore clear that PD-L1  needs to be inhibited. So far, though, says Dr. Durie, there is only one PD-L1 inhibitor, which is being tested right now…but it could take a while…

Well, I thought, in the meantime, why don’t I see if there are any potential, naturally-derived, nontoxic PD-L1 inhibitors out there? And so I began checking PubMed…

I’m sure you’ve already guessed that curcumin seems to be a PD-L1 inhibitor: http://goo.gl/wrbaZd Now, to be honest, I couldn’t make heads or tails of this study (reading just one paragraph gave me a headache!), but I did get one thing out of it…I think!…as follows…

Scroll down to “Results,” where you will find the following: curcumin inhibited PD-L1 by 30% (and PD-L2 by 70%…I’m not sure if PD-L2 is as important as the other one, though, for myeloma…) in these dendritic cells, which are immune cells. Well okay, 30% isn’t super impressive, truth be told, and I didn’t find any other studies connecting PD-L1 inhibition with curcumin, but I’ll keep digging…

But I do have some encouraging news. I made a new discovery! I found a nontoxic substance, extracted from a plant called Chaenomeles speciosa Nakai, which appears to be a powerful PD-L1 inhibitor and has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, quelle surprise (not!). See: http://goo.gl/90Ipe1 (the full study can be downloaded, too…).

More research is needed, of course, but the main thing is that this nontoxic plant extract suppresses PD-L1, while increasing immune function…

Just what we need. :)