Infections are now the leading cause of death in people with multiple myeloma 12. Advances in treatment have extended survival; however, certain myeloma therapies weaken patients' immune systems. For these reasons, the spectrum of infections appearing in people with multiple myeloma has changed 12.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
High Risk for Infection
People with multiple myeloma have higher risk for infection due to their suppressed immune system. The cancer cells destroy normal antibodies and produce white blood cells that don't work.
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People with multiple myeloma get bacterial, fungal and viral infections, according to expert hematologists. The most common pathogen is gram-negative bacteria, which causes kidney infection. Pneumonia caused by various pneumoniae pathogens frequently occurs. Recently, a sharp increase in invasive fungal infections caused by molds has occurred in patients with multiple myeloma, reports Seminars in Hematology 1.
- People with multiple myeloma get bacterial, fungal and viral infections, according to expert hematologists.
- Recently, a sharp increase in invasive fungal infections caused by molds has occurred in patients with multiple myeloma, reports Seminars in Hematology 1.
Certain medications increase the risk for infection in people with multiple myeloma 12. Therapy with bortezomib, a new class of medication that causes cancer cells to die by blocking proteasomes, reactivates the herpes simplex and herpes zoster viruses, according to Clinics for Infectious Disease. The novel immunomodulating drugs thalidomide and lenalidomide are often used in combination with chemotherapy, which by itself kills healthy white blood cells. Respiratory and urinary tract infections can occur as well. Another severe infection is bacteria in the blood (15 percent), which can lead to death.
Infections Related to Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cell transplants prolong life; however, patients must stay in the hospital for weeks until their transplanted stem cells begin to produce enough white blood cells. The spectrum of infections following transplant includes unusual pathogens such as Clostridium difficile, cytomegalovirus and opportunistic molds, according to Clinics for Infectious Disease.
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- "Seminars in Hematology"; Infections in Patients with Multiple Myeloma; Nucci, M. 2009
- "Clinics Infectious Disease"; "Infections in Patients with Multiple Myeloma in the Era of High-Dose Therapy and Novel Agents"; 2009
- "American Society of Hematology"; Abstract 2828; Infection, Multiple Myeloma, Thalidomide; 2009
- American Cancer Society. What Is Multiple Myeloma?. Updated February 28, 2018.
- National Cancer for Advancing Translational Sciences. Multiple myeloma. Updated March 11, 2016
- American Cancer Society. Tests to Find Multiple Myeloma. Updated February 28, 2018.
- American Cancer Society. What’s New in Multiple Myeloma Research?. Updated February 28, 2018.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA authorizes first next generation sequencing-based test to detect very low levels of remaining cancer cells in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia or multiple myeloma. Published September 28, 2018.
- Nijhof IS, Van de donk NWCJ, Zweegman S, Lokhorst HM. Current and new therapeutic strategies for relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma: An update. Drugs. 2018;78(1):19-37. doi:10.1007/s40265-017-0841-y
- National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Myeloma.
- Office for National Statistics. Cancer survival in England: adults diagnosed in 2009 to 2013, followed up to 2014. Newport: ONS; 2015.
- American Cancer Society. Survival Rates by Stage for Multiple Myeloma. Updated February 28, 2018.
- Rajkumar SV, Landgren O, Mateos MV. Smoldering multiple myeloma. Blood. 2015;125(20):3069-75. doi:10.1182/blood-2014-09-568899
- Helwick C. Evidence builds for treating smoldering myeloma. The ASCO Post. May 25, 2019.
- Ghobrial IM, Landgren O. How I treat smoldering multiple myeloma. Blood. 2014;124(23):3380-8. doi:10.1182/blood-2014-08-551549
- Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Prognosis.
- MyelomaSurvivor.com. Multiple Myeloma, Survival Rate Statistics by Hospital.
- Petersen, G. Why Do People Beat the Average Multiple Myeloma Life Expectancy Prognosis? Or How To Improve Your Myeloma Survival Rate!. Myeloma Crowd.org. Published March 11, 2014.
Based in New York City, Helen Williams has been a feature writer for more than 15 years. She has written scientific posters, journal articles and book chapters for physicians, lawyers and the general public. Williams' narratives have appeared in publications including "Playgirl" and "Guideposts." She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Tufts University.