While the survival prognosis for those with multiple myeloma was two to three years when Durie joined the field, that outlook has improved to seven or eight years, or as many as 15 years for those with less-aggressive disease, the doctor said.
“It’s amazing for me that myeloma is not a death sentence anymore,” he said. “There is over a 90% chance that I can offer patients a treatment that will work and generate survival for five to 10 years. In fact, I have a patient who has had myeloma for 33 years. We’re not curing patients, but they can have one remission after another that can last for several years each.”
Looking ahead, the ultimate goal will be to find a cure for multiple myeloma, Durie said.
In the meantime, he is very interested in finding ways to prevent the disease. That seems increasingly possible, Durie said, as evidence emerges that multiple myeloma can arise from exposure to chemicals, such as the contaminants released into the New York City air as a result of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.
“If chemicals cause myeloma, then this can be the basis for a huge preventive effort over the next 10 to 20 years,” Durie said. “By then, maybe we will have cured some patients, but preventing a lot of people from getting the disease would be even better.”
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