IMF Focuses on Education for Blood Cancer Awareness Month

Goals include informing about Black Swan Research Initiative, iStop MM Project

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by Mary Chapman |

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For this Blood Cancer Awareness Month, observed each September, the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) is focusing on educating people about multiple myeloma, the second most common type of blood cancer.

The month is set aside to heighten awareness about all blood cancers, which are diagnosed every three minutes in the U.S. alone. It’s also focused on raising funds and supporting patients and their families.

Through its #kNOwMyeloma campaign, the IMF’s primary aim is to reach not only those with myeloma, but those who may not have heard of this type of blood cancer. Throughout the month, IMF will pose a single question: “Do you know myeloma?”

The effort also seeks to inspire the myeloma community to advocate for patients. Myeloma is a rare blood cancer that starts in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that’s normally responsible for generating antibodies that help ward off infectious microbes and other menaces.

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Education will focus on symptoms, early diagnosis, tests, disease progression, and the relatively high incidence of myeloma among people of African descent.

The organization is also calling attention to its resources and publications, its support groups, and its InfoLine team, which answers myeloma-related questions and concerns.

Advocacy goals include informing patients and the public about IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative, which is focused on preventing and curing myeloma, and the iStopMM Project, the largest population-screening study of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a benign, inactive form of myeloma that may ultimately progress into active disease.

“For more than 30 years, the IMF has been on a mission to improve the lives of myeloma patients and find a cure,” Brian G.M. Durie, MD, IMF’s board chairman, said in a foundation press release. “We believe that the early treatment strategies that underpin the iStopMM Project and the cure trials hold the key to achieving the cure.”

IMF also hopes to raise awareness about new and breakthrough treatment options, such as CAR T-cell therapy, and the organization’s M-Power project, a multicity effort to improve outcomes among African-Americans.

To encourage tissue sampling among myeloma patients, the organization is also providing information about the International Myeloma Working Group’s virtual biobank and immune therapy registry.

“With the development of so many new treatments over the past 20 years, patients can reimagine living with myeloma,” Yelak Biru, IMF’s president and CEO, and a multiple myeloma patient for more than 25 years, said. “That’s why it’s so important for the IMF to continue putting patients at the center of research, education, advocacy, and support. With all the recent developments in the IMF’s intense search for a cure, there is more hope than ever before.”

Awareness month supporters are encouraged to participate by using their social media platforms to share myeloma facts, treatment breakthroughs, and inspiring patient stories of hope and resilience. Infographics may be downloaded from IMF’s social media toolkit.

The foundation is also offering a myeloma quiz game and invites awareness month participants to test their myeloma knowledge by answering daily questions on its Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram pages.

IMF will also host a two-part Facebook Live series on Sept. 21 and 28 at 7 p.m. ET. The half-hour presentations will feature Joseph Mikhael, MD, IMF’s chief medical officer.

For the first event, Mikhael will review myeloma basics, share disease facts and statistics, discuss health disparities within the myeloma community, and provide information about IMF resources. The second event will focus on research breakthroughs, immune therapies under development, and the Black Swan Research Initiative.