18th International Myeloma Workshop
Disparities in myeloma: Closing the gap
Prof Joseph Mikhael - Translational Genomics Research Institute, Pheonix, USA
I had the privilege of speaking at the IMW Nursing Symposium on Disparities in Multiple Myeloma: Closing the Gap. The essence of this talk was to raise greater awareness around the unfortunate disparity that we see in myeloma diagnosis and therapy in certain more vulnerable populations. In particular I focussed my talk on the African American population where we know that myeloma is twice as common and yet, unfortunately, these individuals have less access to our key therapies of triplets, transplants and trials and, as a result, have an inferior survival outcome, in fact, half of the survival benefit of what we see in Caucasian patients in the United States.
That being said, we know that when African Americans are given the same treatments as white Americans that their survival can match, if not even be superior, to white Americans. So there is clearly a call to action here to find a way to improve this disparity, indeed to close the gap, as the title of the talk was.
So I spent a lot of time discussing the importance of understanding these issues, appreciating that this is a multi-headed problem that requires a multi-headed solution. Part of that solution is the work that the IMF is doing in the M-Power project. We are seeking to change the course of multiple myeloma by raising awareness in the community and educating individuals who may or may not have multiple myeloma so they understand the signs and symptoms of the disease and can support those with it. Secondly, to educate the primary care community so that they can more accurately and more quickly diagnose multiple myeloma which is one of the great problems with this disease – there is a delay in diagnosis in all patients but particularly so in African Americans. So we’ve centred this project initially in Charlotte, North Carolina, and are moving now to multiple other cities across the country.
I would just add that disparity in multiple myeloma is really a global problem. This isn’t just an issue here in the United States. Hopefully by raising awareness of the tremendous disparity that we face here in multiple levels, both systemic and within the medical community, we can be more attuned to this in whatever community is represented listening to this discussion today that you can recognise the need for overcoming the disparity for the patients that you care for across the world.