M-Power Project for African Americans Now Includes New York

IMF program due to above-average risk among Blacks for multiple myeloma

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by Mary Chapman |

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The International Myeloma Foundation’s (IMF) M-Power project, which seeks to improve disease outcomes for African Americans with multiple myeloma, has formed a partnership with yet another U.S. city, this time New York.

Myeloma is the most common blood cancer among Black Americans, who have an above-average risk of the disorder, which begins in plasma cells and grows out of control in the bone marrow. The incidence of multiple myeloma is more than two times higher for people of African descent than whites, according to the IMF, and strikes at a younger median age: 66 for Black and 70 for white patients.

M-Power is working to increase myeloma awareness, with a goal of altering the course of multiple myeloma by working with healthcare professionals, community leaders, neighborhoods, and families to better understand and advocate for this disease.

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Memorial Sloan Kettering-International Myeloma Foundation partner for program

In this partnership, the IMF joined with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) to establish M-Power New York, which aims to remove barriers to an early myeloma diagnosis and start of care among African Americans there.

“We are pleased to partner with the International Myeloma Foundation to launch M-Power New York, a program that follows the model used to help close the multiple myeloma disparities gap in other cities around the country,” Saad Usmani, MD, chief of MSK’s Myeloma Service, said in an IMF press release.

“This collaboration will help support MSK’s commitment to identifying and addressing the cancer care access and outcomes disparities faced by Black New Yorkers diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and we are looking forward to connecting with this community at our first educational workshop in October,” Usmani said.

The program opened this month with a free online workshop that provided New York residents with disease information. The Oct. 1 webinar was hosted by Joseph Mikhael, MD, the IMF’s chief medical officer, and featured a panel of myeloma experts, including Usmani.

During the presentation, attendees learned about why race matters in myeloma care and survival, and topics discussed covered disease symptoms, current therapies, and how to find support.

A dedicated M-Power New York website will help people better understand these symptoms and available disease treatments. It also offers multimedia educational materials, a tip card for use with doctor visits, and a directory of local support groups.

The IMF also is working with the MSK’s Office of Health Equity to engage local leaders and healthcare professionals in raising awareness of the treatable but relatively little-known disorder.

“Patient education and advocacy for patients’ rights to health equity are critical to ensuring that the Black  community is well represented in clinical trials and that they have access to proper care and treatment,” said Yelak Biru, IMF president and CEO. “The IMF is committed to both. We are truly delighted to be partnering with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Care team, led by myeloma expert Dr. Saad Usmani.”

When African American patients receive proper, timely care, they fare as least as well as whites, added Joseph Mikhael, the IMF’s chief medical officer.

“The latest research data show that Black myeloma patients do just as well or even better than white patients when barriers to early diagnosis and treatment are eliminated. These findings have been our organization’s call to action,” he said.

Mikhael underlined the importance of examining patients for myeloma during routine checkups because no national screening recommendations currently exist for the blood cancer.

“That’s why it is so important for black people to learn about the early symptoms of myeloma and to let their doctors know they are at higher risk for the disease during regular checkups,” Mikhael said.

Other “M-Powered” cities are Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Charlotte, North Carolina.