Multiple myeloma (MM) is a malignant, progressive plasma cell tumor characterized by overproduction of monoclonal immunoglobulins, osteolytic bone lesions, renal disease, and immunodeficiency. Before the 1980s, patients with MM experienced a slow, progressive decline in quality of life until death approximately 2 years after diagnosis, but the advent of high-dose alkylating agents increased the probability of remission and prolonged overall and event-free survival. During the past decade, important advances have been made in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of MM, leading to the development of even more effective treatment strategies,[3,4] including stem cell transplantation, the immunomodulators thalidomide(Drug information on thalidomide) and lenalidomide, and the first-generation proteasome inhibitor bortezomib(Drug information on bortezomib).
Currently, MM is an active field of research for novel pharmacotherapies, with a number of agents in phase II or III of clinical development. This supplement describes several therapeutic advances in the context of the underlying molecular mechanisms. The objective of this article is to put these advances into the current clinical context by providing an overview of the epidemiology, etiology, and clinical features of MM, along with the prognosis for patients with this disease.