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Support group behind conference for leading experts to talk about myeloma

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LOCAL medical professionals have been finding out about bone marrow cancer from visiting specialists.

Guernsey’s consultant medical oncologist Dr Peter Gomes, left, with Dr Martin Kaiser, a leading expert on myeloma, who spoke at a conference arranged by the Guernsey Myeloma Support Group. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 26920292)

A conference on myeloma – a type of malignant tumour found in bone marrow – was held at Les Cotils on Saturday.

Two blood specialists – Dr Martin Kaiser, from Royal Marsden London and the Institute of Cancer Research, and Dr Rachel Brown, from Manchester University NHS – were invited to the island to impart more information about the rare cancer.

The Princess Elizabeth Hospital’s consultant medical oncologist Dr Peter Gomes said the event had been driven by the Guernsey Myeloma Support Group.

The group organised the event to educate on the benefits of early referral.

‘I’m grateful to the GMSG for organising this event,’ Dr Gomes said.

‘The important work they do collaborating with the UK and increasing awareness about this illness is much appreciated.’

Together the three spoke about myeloma to improve understanding.

Dr Kaiser said the aim of the conference was to recognise early symptoms and to encourage GPs to think about myeloma when diagnosing.

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‘GPs know of myeloma already, but need reminding since it’s vital to get an early referral,’ he said.

Myeloma affects the immune system.

‘While myeloma is not common, it causes a lot of additional problems if not found early,’ Dr Kaiser said.

‘Within bone marrow there are cells which specifically act for immunity. If they become a tumour it can affect many areas of the body. Produced normally, these cells are very helpful defences.’

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Treatment is available for myeloma.

‘There is no surgical way to remove tumours from within the bone. So you must be systemic straight from the beginning, and diagnose early,’ Dr Kaiser said.

‘There are two treatments: radiotherapy, and medication. Medicating is named long-term disease control, as myeloma patients can live long lives. People can now live relatively normal lives with the right treatment.’

Dr Kaiser is researching alternative cures.

‘Eventually myeloma can resist medication,’ he said.

‘I am studying the changes in tumour cells when they become resistant, how the disease evolves, and what genetic changes happen. We will find out a lot more in the future.’

Until then, the specialists said that awareness must be raised to understand more.

‘Aimed at GPs, this conference had a lot of interest,’ said Dr Gomes.

‘People understand the importance of the subject and the need to talk about it. Dr Kaiser is a world expert and was chosen specifically by the GMSG to talk.

‘The GMSG is made up of patients, partners, and their families. They arrange monthly meetings as well as organising a larger annual conference.’

Dr Kaiser said he first became aware of myeloma when looking for his medical degree research project.

‘The need for further study struck me – much more can be done in terms of research,’ he said. ‘A lot of progress has happened since I started. Because of the nature of myeloma, you build relationships and follow patient progress long term, through important phases of their life.’

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