New…or rather, perhaps not so new: a “new” long-term follow-up study on MGUS

Ah, here we go again. A bunch of useless statistics (as usual, this is JMO).

A Mayo Clinic study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine states that people with MGUS will ALWAYS be at risk of progressing to multiple myeloma or a related blood cancer, even if they have been stable for 30 years. You will find the abstract here:

I learned about this study after reading the rather ominous title of an article published in Science Daily on January 18, 2018: “Patients with blood cancer precursor at risk of developing cancer even after 30 years.”


Except…there aren’t any Yikes! 

We already knew this.

In an earlier follow-up study published back in 2004, Dr. Robert Kyle et al came to the exact same conclusion, and I quote: “The median survival rate of study patients with MGUS was only slightly shorter than that of a comparable US population. Risk of progression of MGUS to lymphoplasma cell malignancy is indefinite and persists even after more than 30 years of follow-up […]”

So yes, sure, there is a risk of progression, even after 30 years, or 40, or 50, or 1000. But, as I said, what’s new, here? Not much, except that the number of people with MGUS residing in Olmsted County, Minnesota, is higher compared to the 2004 study, 1384 versus 241.

That said, I managed to get my hands on the full study and will go through it with more care in the next few days, so there might be some surprises or interesting tidbits. Probably nothing earth-shattering…and, almost certainly, nothing that would justify that ominous title.

Well, actually, here’s a quick tidbit: in the Discussion part, these researchers tell us that it is MUCH more likely that people with MGUS will die from something else than from myeloma or a related disorder. I mean, the difference is overwhelming.

So if we have stable MGUS, we should be MUCH more worried about slipping and falling down in the kitchen and hitting our head on the floor, for example…

Well, I’m disappointed. I mean, I’m sure that these researchers find it very interesting to carry out these follow-up studies, but at least in this case I find it a waste of time and money…It just confirms something we already know.

Let’s spend the money elsewhere, like on finding a way to neutralize EBV inside myeloma cells, and, indeed, inside other types of cancer cells. That would be so much more useful!

In conclusion…As a U.S. myeloma expert once told me, statistics are useful only to specialists who wish to compare the results of their own statistical studies. He told me that as far as patients are concerned, statistics are useless.

I concur.