Multiple myeloma: biology of the disease

Blood Rev. 2010 Nov;24 Suppl 1:S5-11. doi: 10.1016/S0268-960X(10)70003-5.


Multiple myeloma (MM) is a clonal B-cell malignancy characterized by the aberrant expansion of plasma cells within the bone marrow, as well as at extramedullary sites. Decades of scientific research are now beginning to unravel the intricate biology that underlies the pathophysiology of MM. In particular, the roles of cellular differentiation, molecular pathogenesis, and oncogenes involved in the natural history of MM are becoming clearer. This has enabled the identification of specific cytokines, adhesion molecules, and stromal cells that affect MM cell development, disease progression, and treatment responses. This review describes our current understanding regarding the biology of MM, and how this has led to a robust pipeline of novel therapeutic agents with the potential to overcome resistance to existing MM therapies and, therefore, further improve outcomes in patients with MM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Bone Marrow / immunology*
  • Bone Marrow / physiopathology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Multiple Myeloma* / drug therapy
  • Multiple Myeloma* / etiology
  • Multiple Myeloma* / genetics
  • Multiple Myeloma* / immunology
  • Multiple Myeloma* / physiopathology
  • Plasma Cells / immunology*
  • Plasma Cells / pathology*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Cytokines
  • Immunologic Factors