Nov. 13, 2009 | Prospects for many patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, have changed dramatically since the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy (MIRT) was established in 1989 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
As the institute celebrates 20 years of progress, founder and director, Bart Barlogie, M.D., Ph.D., talks in terms of successful treatment for many patients. Based on years of research by Myeloma Institute scientists, clinical trials under way target high-risk and low-risk disease as defined by genetic profiling.
“We now predict that half of those patients diagnosed with the low-risk, less aggressive form of the disease – which makes up 85 percent of newly diagnosed cases – can be cured,” Barlogie said. “While those with the more aggressive or high-risk form of multiple myeloma face more of a challenge, we will not stop until we can say the same for all of our patients.”
In multiple myeloma, plasma cells (white blood cells that form in the bone marrow and that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies) multiply abnormally and interfere with normal production and function of red and other white blood cells. The abnormal plasma cells, known as myeloma cells, also prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving the body’s immune system weakened. Myeloma cells commonly produce substances that cause bone destruction, leading to bone pain and/or fractures.
During the past 20 years the institute has treated more than 9,000 patients who have come to UAMS from every state and more than 50 foreign countries. The institute treats more multiple myeloma patients annually than any other facility in the country.
Among the milestones achieved in the institute’s history:
In addition, the Myeloma Institute was the first to:
Barlogie credited the determination of clinicians and translational researchers “who dedicated their professional mission to curing myeloma” for the institute’s success. Added to that, he said, is an infrastructure of outstanding nurses and support staff “that has created a coordinated network of care that gives confidence and optimism to all of our patients.” He noted with pride that many nurses and other Myeloma Institute staff members have remained since the program’s inception.
The FACT accreditation, announced in October, confirms that the myeloma program follows standards agreed upon by leading experts in the field of cellular therapy and transplantation, said Elias Anaissie, M.D., a professor of medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine and director of supportive care at the Myeloma Institute. The FACT accreditation is from the International Society for Cellular Therapy and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation.
The accreditation covers adult autologous hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation, peripheral blood cellular therapy product collection and cellular therapy product processing. Anaissie said the accreditation is looked at by both referring physicians and insurance companies.
“We believe FACT Accreditation will reinforce that our facility strives to achieve the highest quality care for cellular therapy treatment programs,” Anaissie said.
Barlogie pointed to a continued move toward personalized medicine in multiple myeloma treatment. In the ongoing clinical trials, the treatment plans are based on gene array results that are available within 96 hours of a new patient’s arrival at the Myeloma Institute.
MIRT is the only facility in the world that routinely offers gene array analysis for newly referred patients and utilizes this information for patient management and planning of therapy.
UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; northwest Arkansas regional campus; statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Myeloma Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,834 students, 822 medical residents and six dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.