MGUS is a common condition that affects about 3 in 100 people by the time they reach age 50, rising to more than 1 in 10 by the age of 80. It is caused by the growth of a particular type of white blood cell, called B cells, which are the cells that produce the antibodies that protect us from infection. In MGUS, one of these B cells grows out of control and as a result produces a large amount of a single antibody, which we call a paraprotein.
For most people, MGUS has no symptoms and does not require any treatment. However, in a small number of cases (between 1 and 2 in a 100 per year), it can develop into an aggressive leukaemia called Multiple Myeloma. Although a number of drugs have recently been approved for the treatment of Multiple Myeloma, it remains poorly controlled and is usually fatal.
In addition, a small number of patients with MGUS develop other symptoms, which may be related to the high levels of paraprotein produced by the faulty B cells.
At present, it is not well understood what factors determine whether MGUS progresses to Multiple Myeloma. Furthermore, almost nothing is known about the nature or frequency of symptoms resulting from the presence of the paraprotein itself.
Unravel MGUS has provided data to improve our understanding of MGUS, and which will hopefully aid the clinical management of MGUS patients in the future – in particular, the small number who suffer severe symptoms resulting from the paraprotein.
By studying the paraproteins that cause particular symptoms we hope to go on to use this information to target biological pathways that may be related to other diseases. This work may lead to the design of novel targeted therapies for a number of unrelated conditions.
USEFUL INFORMATION SHEETS
MGUS and multiple myeloma Research Foundation - US based, useful information sheets
Myeloma UK - including MGUS information sheets