University of Birmingham scientists explain how multiple myeloma develops

The fact that multiple myeloma develops from the pre-existing condition known as MGUS is nothing new. I mean, I wrote about this very topic back in 2009 (remember that cancer screening trial that allowed researchers from the Mayo Clinic and the National Cancer Institute to examine blood samples taken from patients several years before they were diagnosed with MM? If not, have a look at the post I wrote back then: “Does MGUS always precede MM?”).

IMG_5327But today I read something that adds a new piece to the puzzle of myeloma–a recent discovery made by a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham: http://goo.gl/vE6PWU

It’s an easy read, but I did want to highlight a few points, such as this one: “Surprisingly, the researchers found that the metabolic activity of the bone marrow of patients with MGUS was significantly different to plasma from healthy volunteers, but there were very few differences at all between the MGUS and myeloma samples.” Ouch. See Priscilla’s expression? That was pretty much how I must have looked after reading that sentence…

Here’s an excerpt providing more details: “The research team found over 200 products of metabolism differed between the healthy volunteers and patients with MGUS or myeloma, compared to just 26 differences between MGUS patients and myeloma patients. The researchers believe that these small changes could drive the key shifts in the bone marrow required to support myeloma growth.”

IMG_5315Things get a bit, er, alarming, though, when Dr. Tennant, the head researcher, says that “very few changes are required for a MGUS patient to progress to myeloma.” VERY FEW changes? I had to let that sink in for a second or two before reading on. And I probably looked like Prezzemolo (photo on the right)…

But then Dr. Tennant adds that a “drug that interferes with these specific initial metabolic changes could make a very effective treatment for myeloma, so this is a very exciting discovery.”

Okay, so first he TOTALLY freaks us out with the news that only a few metabolic changes in the bone marrow are required to jump from MGUS to MM. Then he reassures us that a “metabolic” drug might be able to stop said progression. Bad news followed by potentially good news…

Well, this is the most interesting study I’ve read about in a while…a study that has given my brain some real food to chew on…

Need to do some research now.

Any thoughts, dear readers and friends?