Multiple myeloma is a fatal bone marrow cancer which is preceded by a pre-cancerous stage known as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). Approximately 3% of the Australian population over the age of 50 are living with MGUS, accounting for more than 300,000 people. While MGUS patients do not have symptoms, myeloma is fatal, with only a 50% survival rate at 5 years. Anti-cancer treatments are commenced only when a patient is diagnosed with myeloma and when organ damage including bone damage, is already present. We know that approximately 10% of MGUS patients will go on to develop MM in their lifetime. Currently, there are no tools that clinicians can use to determine an individual’s risk of progressing to cancerous myeloma and there are no treatments that can slow or prevent progression from MGUS to myeloma.
The research program aims to transform how we screen, diagnose, and treat MGUS and myeloma, and change this fatal disease to one which is ultimately preventable. This will include developing clinical tools to identify which MGUS patients are at high risk of developing myeloma, and will identify new targets for treatment, to change how we treat MGUS and myeloma and improve outcomes for these patients. The long-term goal is to develop a population-based screening program, like the national bowel, breast, and cervical screening programs, to identify high risk MGUS patients who would benefit from frequent monitoring and/or early commencement on treatment, thereby reducing the impacts of multiple myeloma in the community.