[September 6, 2005]
Myeloma Forum Held At Suny Downstate
SUNY Downstate held a conference recently to address the growing concern surrounding myeloma in Brooklyn. Dr. Olcay Batuman, a clinician scientist who specializes in multiple myeloma treatment and research, presented an overview of the disease and provided information on current and emerging drug therapies.
Myeloma is a cancer of new plasma cells located in bone marrow. Plasma cells are the part of the immune system that makes antibodies to help humans ward off infections. However, once the cells expand uncontrollably inside the marrow it affects the immune systems effectiveness.
“Under normal circumstances plasma cells mediate our immunity, so when you have a tumor of a plasma cell…immunity functions performed by these cells are going to decrease,” said Dr. Batuman, an associate professor of medicine at SUNY Downstate. Dr. Batuman's work is supported by a new grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the role of the endothelium - the innermost layer of cells lining the blood vessels - in myeloma.
According to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which helped sponsor the conference, about 15,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with myeloma this year.
Symptoms of myeloma include fatigue, anemia, kidney damage or failure, and frequent infections. There is no known cause or cure for myeloma. The risk of developing the disease increases with age. Most people with myeloma are age 50 and older. It is more common among men than women. The disease is diagnosed twice as often in African Americans than in Caucasians. In addition, there is evidence that the problem is especially acute among minority populations in Brooklyn for reasons that are unclear.
The goal for physicians treating patients with myeloma is to slow down its progression and to reduce its symptoms. “If possible we want to eradicate multiple myeloma, but if not possible, we want to slow the progress of the disease, so that it becomes something like diabetes…that patients can live a long time with and something we can handle,” said Dr. Batuman.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center is the only academic medical center in Brooklyn, serving more than 2 million people within the borough. SUNY Downstate is located at 450 Clarkson Avenue.