Estonian researchers want to improve survival of bone marrow cancer patients

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a neoplastic disease of bone marrow and accounts for approximately 13% of all hematologic cancers. In Estonia the survival of MM is only 30 months whereas in the US it is considerably higher. This difference is mainly explained by different access to anti-myeloma agents in the US and Europe. On 9 September, experts of the subject from Estonia, the US and elsewhere will meet at the University of Tartu to discuss the latest developments of the disease and increase research cooperation with the US to improve the survival of MM patients in Estonia.

University of Tartu Associate Professor of Haematology Edward Laane described that the annual age-adjusted incidence of MM is 5.6 per 100 000 in Western countries and the median age at diagnosis is close to 70 years. 

Since the introduction of melphalan and prednisone in 1969, the treatment of MM for most patients was unchanged for 30 years with a median survival of 2–3 years. Survival was improved to 3–4 years with multi-agent chemotherapy induction followed by autologous transplantation.

“Since 1999, with new agents in the MM treatment, the average survival rate has improved considerably exceeding more than five years in selected centres. However, improved survival is seen mostly in the US population,” said Laane.

He gave the example that according to the US SEER population database, the survival of five years of MM was 46.6% in 2005–2011 and in EU only 39.6% in 2006–2008. “In Estonia, the median survival of MM in 2005–2009 was only 30 months and the survival of five years was only 33% in 2010–2014. This difference is mainly explained by different access to anti-myeloma agents in the US, Europe and Estonia. The situation in Estonia is very worrying,” said the associate professor.

According to Professor Kenneth Anderson, the head of the MM programme at Dana-Farber Cancer Insitute, the world’s leading MM research and treatment centre located in the US, the median survival of MM can exceed eight years.

The seminar “Multiple Myeloma 2016—State of The Art” on 9 September at 12–17 at the UT assembly hall includes leading researchers of the field from the UT, incl. Professor Hele Everaus, and also leading experts from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The seminar is opened by UT Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Mart Noorma.

One of the leading researchers of MM, Professor Nikhil Munshi, is coming to Tartu. By applying the latest technology, he has revealed that the immune system and genetic instability play a major role in the pathogenesis and disease progression of MM. Professor Munshi’s research group has published numerous publications on myeloma immunobiology and genetics.

According to Edward Laane, the aim of the seminar is to promote scientific cooperation between the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Tartu. “The direct benefit to the University of Tartu Haematology-Oncology Clinic is collaborative research with the top US cancer research centre, which in turn is aimed to improve the survival on MM patients in Estonia,” said Laane and added that this collaboration could also give young researchers of the University of Tartu the opportunity to visit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

This programme is implemented with funding from the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation. More information about BAFF scholarships and research scholars is available on the BAFF website.

Additional information
Edward Laane, UT Associate Professor of Haematology
+372 53976332

Virge Tamme Press Officer of the UT Phone: +372 737 5683
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