February 10, 2017

Myeloma Patients Fare Better When Treated at Experienced Facilities

Feb. 9, 2017 | The UAMS Myeloma Center, an international leader in myeloma research and clinical care since 1989, sees more myeloma patients than just about any other center in the world. The institute’s specialists treat myeloma day in and day out.  That is a distinct advantage for patients.  And, recent research indicating that patients fare better when treated at experienced medical facilities supports that advantage.

Findings from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, show that people diagnosed with multiple myeloma are more likely to survive longer when treated at a medical center that sees lots of multiple myeloma patients. Published this past fall in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, “Association Between Treatment Facility Volume and Mortality of Patients With Multiple Myeloma” concludes that patients treated for multiple myeloma at facilities with high patient volume had a lower risk of death than those treated at facilities with lower patient volume.

The study, based on 94,722 patients treated at 1,333 facilities and adjusted for sociodemographic and geographic factors and comorbidities, noted some clear factors that play a role:

  • Most hematologists/oncologists in general practice see only two new and six established patients with multiple myeloma each year. It is difficult to be proficient with such a small caseload that comprises only 2% of one’s practice.
  • An unprecedented number of new drugs are becoming available for the treatment of multiple myeloma, and there is a wealth of new information about myeloma biology at the molecular level that is revealing targets for precision medicine approaches. Multiple myeloma is becoming increasingly complex to classify according to risk and to treat. A hematologist/oncologist in general practice cannot possibly stay current on everything pertaining to multiple myeloma while staying current on other, more common cancers.

“It is nice to have a study that validates what we have known for a long time,” said Gareth Morgan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UAMS Myeloma Center and professor of Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine. “Those of us who have devoted our careers to treating multiple myeloma understand that it takes a long-term, single-disease focus to truly appreciate the nuances of multiple myeloma and the factors that influence treatment choices for individual patients. We take this even further by integrating genetic studies with clinical findings to guide individual treatment plans.”

In addition to participating in international meetings where the latest clinical and research findings are shared among professional colleagues and staying abreast of peer-reviewed publications in the leading journals, Morgan and his team take advantage of the vast wealth of patient-related data that has been collected over decades at the Myeloma Center. The data, which can be continually assessed as new, sophisticated analytical tools become available, reveal outcome patterns that shed light on which treatment methods are the most effective.

Another distinct advantage of centers that have had a high patient volume for many years is the presence of a well-oiled infrastructure. For example, other clinical services at UAMS, including nephrology, cardiology, hematopathology, radiology and orthopaedic surgery, have worked collaboratively with the multiple myeloma program and have built expertise in diagnosing and caring for the array of medical issues that can complicate treatment. Nursing staff in both the inpatient and outpatient settings also have specialized training that enables them to anticipate and quickly react to symptoms of the disease and treatment side effects and provide comprehensive care based on a keen understanding of the disease.

“Multiple myeloma is very complex,” said Faith Davies, M.D., the UAMS Myeloma Center’s director of developmental therapeutics and professor of Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine. “A coordinated, multi-disciplinary team is essential for addressing the needs of patients and their loved ones. Having a large number of patients has helped drive an integrated, collaborative effort. In addition, community volunteers, as well as local hotels and restaurants, cater to our patients and are important components of our service that promote optimal outcomes. We are blessed to have such a wonderful community that goes out of its way to help our patients feel at home.”

As the Mayo study pointed out, substantial gaps in clinical outcome exist based on how many patients are treated.  If patients are able to come to a center like the UAMS Myeloma Center, their chances of doing well are improved.

When multiple myeloma strikes, patients deserve to have options for getting the best care possible. The UAMS Myeloma Center, with its almost 30-year history of pioneering and outstanding care that has attracted patients from across the globe and its expertise honed over years of caring for multitudes of patients, is committed to being the go-to center of choice and giving every patient the best chance for a long, disease-free life.