A new study has found higher rates of a precursor condition for myeloma in older individuals who have a close family member with a past or current blood cancer as well as those who are Black. The study, which started in 2019, is the largest screening study to be carried out in the United States. It is being conducted by researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, led by Irene Ghobrial.
For their study, the researchers recruited more than 7,500 participants — 2,439 of the participates were Black. The objective of the study was to determine the rate of monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance in groups that are considered to be high risk, which includes Blacks or those with an immediate family member with a past or current blood cancer. The researchers discovered that people in the high-risk groups who were aged 50 and above were two times as likely to have monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (“MGUS”) in comparison to the general population. MGUS is an asymptomatic disease that can develop into myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer that forms in plasma cells in an individual’s body. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that help the body fight infections. In the report, Ghobrial stated that for cancers such as lung cancer and breast cancer, screening, early detection and intervention made a difference in patient survival.
She adds that using highly sensitive screening methods, monitoring individuals with the condition and intervening with treatment where necessary could also make a difference in the survival of individuals who had a heightened risk for multiple myeloma. Currently, however, there exists no routine MGUS screening, with estimates showing that roughly 3% of Americans aged 50 and above have the condition.
In addition to this, the researchers also discovered an abnormal protein known as the M-protein in the blood of individuals who were diagnosed with the condition. However, none of the damage done to organs in patients in multiple myeloma was observed in these asymptomatic individuals. In their findings, they note that individuals with M-protein are at risk of heart attacks as well as other blood cancers. Based on the study’s latest findings, the American Cancer Society predicts that individuals with this condition have a 1% annual risk of developing the incurable cancer.
Moving forward, the researchers hope to identify the factors that contribute to MGUS development and factors that cause the condition to develop into cancer in some individuals but not others, as well as factors that cause negative health impacts for individuals with the M-protein.
It is advisable for those in the high-risk groups to take advantage of the existing early cancer detection tests developed by companies such as AnPac Bio-Medical Science Co. Ltd (NASDAQ: ANPC) so that treatment can commence early once a positive diagnosis is made.
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