Improving the outcome of patients with multiple myeloma through understanding the causes and effects of frailty

Aim of project

This project aims to identify the causes of frailty and to measure them in a “real world” population of myeloma patients.

Project summary

Half of Myeloma patients are diagnosed above the age of 70 years and most myeloma patients have other medical problems or mobility issues or need support in their daily living activities. Although in the last 15 years, myeloma patient survival has constantly increased, older patients have experienced only modest improvements. This is mainly because older patients are less likely to be enrolled in clinical trials (and hence have access to novel drugs), and they also experience a high rate of toxicity whilst on treatment. The latter is particularly important in those patients classified as “frail” as they have limited organ reserve and are unable to tolerate a stress such as chemotherapy. People who are frail are less able to bounce back quickly after an illness or stressful event. In this project, myeloma patients who need to start a treatment will be grouped according to their degree of frailty by the investigators. These patients will complete interviews, questionnaires, a walking test and a blood test. Patients will be tested periodically (every 4, 6, or 12 months) to see how things change during treatment. The results from this will help investigate the causes and effects of frailty.

Who is involved with the project

The principal investigator of this project is Dr John Burthem a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester and an Honorary Consultant and Manchester Haematological Cancers Diagnostic Partnership Lead at Manchester Royal Infirmary. This project will involve a team of researchers and a local patient supportive group and is supported by the staff of the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

How this project will help Myeloma patients

Identifying the causes of frailty is the first step to be able to treat frailty. This project will help in the planning of future strategies to treat the causes of frailty and thus improve quality of life, and eventually survival, of patients with myeloma. Since the percentage of older adults is increasing, the ability or recognise, monitor, and treat frailty will have a substantial impact on patients, society, and healthcare.

Acknowledgements and funding

This project is funded by a Myeloma UK Health Services Research Grant.


This study is still ongoing however, it is anticipated that once complete, the tools developed in this research project will be of value to the clinical setting.

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