Multiple Myeloma Patients At High Risk For Deadly Infections

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As if patients with multiple myeloma didn't have enough to worry about, an abstract presented at the recent American Society of Hematology meeting suggests that, following diagnosis, their cancer is not presenting the greatest threat to their lives.

Instead, Swedish researchers are reporting that more than one of every five patients with multiple myeloma dies within a year of being diagnosed on account of infection.

Specifically, multiple myeloma patients are at a very high risk of developing both viral and bacterial infections during the first year following their diagnosis and dying from the infection—a risk about 12 times higher compared to a control group. And that's just in the first year. Overall, these patients face a sevenfold risk compared to a control group.

Said Cecilie Blimark MD, of Gothenberg's Sahlgrenska University Hospital:

"We found that bacterial and viral infections represent a major threat to myeloma patients. We found the risk of specific infections, such as pneumonia and septicemia, to be more than 10 times higher in patients than in controls during the first year after diagnosis of multiple myeloma."

Researchers used data compiled from more than 9,600 multiple myeloma patients found in the Swedish national cancer registry between 1988 and 2004. They were compared to a control group of almost 38,000 people matched in age and sex.

The most frequent infection types included septicemia and meningitis.

Unfortunately, the investigators have no direct explanation for why the infection rate is so high and so deadly among this patient population.

Source: ASH 2012

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