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Here you will find brief educational videos that cover a variety of topics related to multiple myeloma. These videos are hosted by nurses from leading myeloma treatment centers.
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Multiple Myeloma Overview

Kathleen Colson, RN, BSN, BS, from the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Tip Sheet about this topic

Hello. I’m Kathleen Colson, and welcome to the Multiple Myeloma Center for Nurses. This video contains a brief overview of multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is a malignancy of the plasma cells that are derived from the B-cell lineage. B-cells are one type of lymphocyte, or immune system cell. When B-cells respond to an infection they become plasma cells. As you may know, plasma cells produce antigen-specific antibodies that help the body fight infection.

However, in multiple myeloma, the normal process breaks down: normal plasma cells transform into malignant myeloma cells and produce large quantities of an abnormal immunoglobulin called monoclonal, or M, protein. The malignant cells also crowd out and inhibit the production of normal blood cells and antibodies in the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma is characterized by destructive bone lesions, hypercalcemia, anemia, and renal failure, the result of accumulation of plasma cells and secretion of monoclonal protein in the serum and/or urine.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common hematological malignancy in the United States after non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In 2014 alone, approximately 24,000 new cases will be diagnosed with this often fatal disease. Estimates are that nearly 11,000, people will lose their battle with multiple myeloma in the same year.

Multiple myeloma accounts for 1% of all cancers, and nearly 20% of patients who lose their lives to a hematologic malignancy do so to this disease.

Precursors to the malignant form of multiple myeloma are monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, and smoldering myeloma.

MGUS is characterized by a serum monoclonal protein level of less than 3 grams per deciliter, less than 10% of bone marrow comprises plasma cells, and there is no organ damage nor laboratory abnormalities, such as anemia or hypercalcemia. Transition from MGUS to multiple myeloma is characterized by a greater than 10% increase in the number of tumor cells in the bone marrow, osteolytic bone lesions, and/or increased tumor mass. Angiogenesis is also correlated with disease activity.

Patients with smoldering myeloma have at least 10% plasma cells in the bone marrow and/or a high M-protein level, but have normal blood counts, calcium levels, and kidney function, and no bone or organ damage. Smoldering myeloma has higher levels of M-protein than MGUS and a higher risk of progression to symptomatic, or active, multiple myeloma.

Active multiple myeloma is characterized by the presence of urinary or serum monoclonal protein. Also, the amount of plasma cells in the bone marrow exceeds 10%, and end-organ damage, or a biopsy-proven plasmacytoma. The end-organ damage associated with multiple myeloma is calcium elevation, renal insufficiency, anemia, and bone problems. They are often described as the CRAB criteria. For detailed information about the CRAB criteria, please view the video CRAB Criteria here on the Multiple Myeloma Center for Nurses website.

This concludes the Multiple Myeloma Overview video. To find out more on other topics related to multiple myeloma, please visit There you will also find a number of educational tools, including tip sheets to help you discuss these topics with your patients, answers to common questions, and other downloadable materials. Thank you.