The final frontier

The final frontier

K Murlidharan, 55-years-age was devastated when he learnt that he was suffering from Multiple Myeloma.

K Murlidharan,55-years-age was devastated when he learnt that he was suffering from Multiple Myeloma. A routine visit to the doctor for a persistent back pain saw him undergo a series of tests which eventually saw the doctors come to the conclusion that he was suffering from the disease. “It was unheard of for me,” he says,adding,“First the doctors found that the kidney was on the verge of a total failure because the calcium levels had increased,and they even found lesions on the bones due to the calcium erosion. A month and a half later they had confirmed the disease.”

Multiple Myeloma or cancer of the plasma cells affects approximately 3.5 patients per 1,00,000 in India,with around 40,000 to 50,000 fresh cases being registered every year. While the disease itself doesn’t have any cure,the quality of life and the lifespan can be improved with early detection and prognosis. “Some of the most common reasons for the disease to be detected late,is that the illness displays varied symptoms. Most common of those being back pain,and bone fractures for which the patients go to orthopedics. In some cases,people also go to nephrologists owing to kidney failures. And again since in both cases the most common medication include painkillers,it only aggravates the illness,” says Dr. Vijay Ramanan,head,Dept of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) at Ruby Hall Clinic.

While the illness itself is a slow acting disease,when it does manifest it spreads to the major bones of the human body quickly. As far as the treatment of the illness is concerned,Autologous BMT,is one of the most preferred treatments. Speaking more about it Dr Ramanan says,“In this treatment the stem cells of the patient are taken from his or her own body,and are cryo-preserved (at-70 degree Celsius). After which the bone marrow of the patient is killed using chemotherapy drugs. Post this the cryo-preserved cells are re-injected into the body. This helps to bring down the number of the cancer cells to a manageable level.”

However the procedure requires a lot of post operative care,wherein the patient has to stay in a sterile environment to avoid the risk of infection. Also since the blood component counts go really low,the patient has to be supplemented with additional blood components. H Suresh,who will be undergoing the procedure in a couple of months feels that while the procedure sounds complicated,it is something that he is ready to do. “It helps to understand more about the procedure and also work towards ensuring that it is carried off successfully,” he says.

The treatment also carries a comparative advantage over the standard BMT procedure,which requires a donor,as the post operative risks involved are less. “As far as the effectiveness is concerned,the treatment brings down the number of cancer cells from the malignant number,which is 10^12 cells,to 10^6,which is the standard manageable level. That itself speaks for the procedure and its success rate,” says,Dr Ramanan.