Shambavi Richard, MD, of the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, outlines why Myeloma Awareness Month represents an important opportunity to educate patients, clinicians, and researchers.
For one, many patients and families may not be familiar with multiple myeloma (MM) or the therapies that are available, she said. This has important implications, as when patients and families are aware of the treatment options for MM, they can seek out a specialist and benefit from the “advantage of the most recent developments” in therapy, Dr. Richard said.
“Over the last couple of decades, there’s been such a great improvement in the outcomes and the survival,” she said, noting that “many new options” for treating MM have been approved.
For example, “cutting-edge therapies” such as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, bispecific antibodies, and immunotherapies have provided a “new lease on life” for many patients, Dr. Richard said.
However, there’s still “room for improvement” in many areas, she emphasized.
For example, Dr. Richard hopes the field will to be able to refine technologies to detect minimal residual disease (MRD) and use MRD information to adapt therapeutic approaches and durations for individual patients. It’s important to move toward tailoring the duration of therapy, as “long-term therapy has significant physical, emotional financial consequences, and this is a real burden to patients and their caregivers,” she said.
It’s also critical to acknowledge and address disparities in multiple myeloma outcomes, Dr. Richard said.
“Black Americans, for instance, have twice the incidence of myeloma, and yet their access to care and ability to avail themselves of research trials, etc., is so much less than what it should be, so their outcomes are not as good,” Dr. Richard said. “So again, awareness is something that will be really important to see if we can fix all of those gaps and disparities in care.”
Overall, Dr. Richard hopes that one day she can confidently tell patients facing a multiple myeloma diagnosis that there is a cure.
“Getting hit with a new cancer diagnosis is always extremely traumatic,” Dr. Richard said. “I think it’s our job as clinicians and researchers to try to move this field forward.”