Long-term survival in multiple myeloma is associated with a distinct immunological profile, which includes proliferative cytotoxic T-cell clones and a favourable Treg/Th17 balance

Blood Cancer J. 2013 Sep 13;3(9):e148. doi: 10.1038/bcj.2013.34.


Despite improved outcomes in multiple myeloma (MM), a cure remains elusive. However, even before the current therapeutic era, 5% of patients survived >10 years and we propose that immune factors contribute to this longer survival. We identified patients attending our clinic, who had survived >10 years (n=20) and analysed their blood for the presence of T-cell clones, T-regulatory cells (Tregs) and T helper 17 (Th17) cells. These results were compared with MM patients with shorter follow-up and age-matched healthy control donors. The frequency of cytotoxic T-cell clonal expansions in patients with <10 years follow-up (MM patients) was 54% (n=144), whereas it was 100% (n=19/19) in the long-survivors (LTS-MM). T-cell clones from MM patients proliferated poorly in vitro, whereas those from LTS-MM patients proliferated readily (median proliferations 6.1% and 61.5%, respectively (P<0.0001)). In addition, we found significantly higher Th17 cells and lower Tregs in the LTS-MM group when compared with the MM group. These results indicate that long-term survival in MM is associated with a distinct immunological profile, which is consistent with decreased immune suppression.