Health and Medicine

The More Body Mass You Have, The Faster Multiple Myeloma Spreads

Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma starts in the plasma cells of the bone marrow.

Researchers have shown in a new study that the more body mass you have, the faster the spread of multiple myeloma occurs. Approximately 10% of all patients that have blood cancer have this particular type of cancer. It’s important for a person that’s battling it to stay within their category for normal weight according to their Body Mass Index.

According to Katie DeCicco-Skinner, a lead study author and biology associate professor at American University, once the BMI falls out of range and increases, so too does the progression and growth of the multiple myeloma. DeCicco-Skinner along with her project colleagues looked at various patients to determine the relationship between multiple myeloma and BMI. Patients of various sizes including normal to morbidly obese were examined in order to note the effects of size on multiple myeloma. Up until this point, there hasn’t been a lot of research done into the weight of patients to see how body cells can increase the growth of cancer.

There were 4 different BMI types examined including morbidly obese, obese, overweight and normal. While there have been only a few studies in regards to BMI and this cancer, there have been even fewer examining the relationship between morbidly obese individuals and this type of cancer. Since there are more and more people that fit into this weight range category, it was especially important to study BMI.

Studies show that every 5 kg/m2 BMI increase can raise the death rate of many cancer victims by as much as 10%. In this particular study, a person having a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or less was considered to have a normal weight while patients with a BMI of 35 to 40 kg/m2 were placed in the morbidly obese category.

Stem cells from people that had undergone elective liposuction surgery were used. The discarded fat provided these necessary stem cells that were converted into fat cells. These cells were then cultured with multiple myeloma.

fat cells
Fat cells cultured from the BMI of a morbidly obese patient cause multiple myeloma cells to anchor to a much greater scope than normal cells and produce an extremely larger number of blood vessels to support the cancer cells. (Image Credit: American University)

Fat cells are an important factor in the research since they can be found in bone marrow, which is where multiple myeloma first develops in the body. These fat cells help to determine the drug resistance, progression, survival and proliferation of the cancer cells. As a person gains weight, the fat cells also increase in size and therefore carry more secrete and lipid proteins. These cells communicate with the myeloma as the BMI goes up.

As a result of the research by DeCicco-Skinner, it may be time to look at new approaches for treatment of this cancer. A morbidly obese patient or even an obese patient may not see the same effects from a drug treatment as a person that has a normal BMI. It may be necessary for patients with a higher-than-normal BMI to receive proteins that are obesity-specific or inflammatory blockers as well as the regular anti-cancer medication they are receiving.

Various approaches are necessary in the fight against cancer other than just concentrating on the cancer cells that are attacking. Fat cell research, a gene-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas 9 and immunotherapy are all important components of the cancer fight. Patients with multiple myeloma have a prognosis of 4 to 7 years once a diagnosis has been made. As well, most of them develop a resistance to chemotherapy over time.

There is definitely a relationship between adhesion, angiogenesis and BMI. When the multiple myeloma cells develop in the bone marrow, it’s the fat cells that are the basis for the spread and growth of this cancer. The research showed that when a person’s BMI goes up, the multiple myeloma cells are able to anchor better within the fat cells. In relationship to angiogenesis, it’s impossible for a cancer cell to exist if it doesn’t have a blood supply of its own. As well, when a person’s BMI goes up, so will the blood vessel amount.

The research results proved to be a surprise for DeCicco-Skinner and her associates. They had already earlier assumed that there would be a core relationship between increased BMI and multiple myeloma but did not expect to see the drastic relationship between morbidly obese and obese patients. Tumor progression was faster in the 2 categories due to a higher secretion of inflammatory proteins.

It’s important to understand the role that obesity plays in multiple myeloma and other cancers. The communication between these cancer cells in the fat cells change considerably when a higher BMI is involved.

Full study has been published in Cancer Letters journal.