Tag Archive for: cytopenias

What Are the Side Effects of Myeloma Immunotherapy?

What Are the Side Effects of Myeloma Immunotherapy? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloma specialist and researcher Dr. Krina Patel discusses the common side effects of immunotherapy and reviews tools that may be used to prevent complications.

Dr. Krina Patel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Dr. Patel is involved in research and cares for patients with multiple myeloma. Learn more about Dr. Patel, here.

Related Resources:

How Does Immunotherapy Treat Myeloma?

What Is Myeloma CAR T-Cell Therapy?

Myeloma Treatment & Research Updates From 2022 ASCO and EHA Meetings



Are there other side effects that patients should know about and side effects that they might experience?

Dr. Patel:  

Yeah, so neurotoxicity is one that we don’t see as much as we see in lymphoma patients, which is again great but sometimes people can get something called ICANS, which is a type of neurotoxicity in the first 30 days after CAR T.

And basically, it can be as bad as seizures, but thankfully we don’t see that very often, or I haven’t seen it at all. But it can cause confusion. It can cause people to be extra sleepy. So, we have different treatments that we give to turn that around. Longer term, really, the big side effects are the counts being low. So, what we call cytopenias. So, white count, hemoglobin, platelets.

And so, that is something we see quite often in our patients who have had a lot of therapy for myeloma already, and then are getting something like CAR T.

So, a lot of my patients will still need transfusions even a month or two or three after, and we’re giving GCSF to help their white count come back up, et cetera.


What’s that?

Dr. Patel: 

So, G-CSF is basically a growth factor that helps your neutrophil; so, a different type of white blood cell – come back up, which helps fight against bacterial infections.

So, it’s the same medicine for anyone who’s had a stem cell transplant. It’s the same medicine you get to get your stem cells into your blood but it’s at a lower dose. But again, it’s to avoid infections, to help present bacterial infections. The other one is infections can also be caused because of low IgG levels or what we call immunoglobulins; these are our antibodies that we have.

And the good news is, when CAR Ts or bispecifics or some of these immune therapies work really well, they’ll kill as many myeloma cells as we possibly can.

But they also kill good cells. So, they kill good plasma cells that make us antibodies and good B cells that make us antibodies. So, when that happens, people’s IgG levels will go down and that puts you at risk for infection too. So, we actually aggressively give people IVIG to help prevent those infections.

Signs It Is Time to Treat Your CLL

Signs It Is Time to Treat Your CLL from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When is it time to treat your chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)? Dr. Catherine Coombs reviews the criteria doctors consider when deciding whether it is time to begin therapy. 

Dr. Catherine Coombs is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology at The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Coombs here.

See More from Thrive CLL

Related Resources:

What Helps Determine a CLL Patient’s Treatment Options?

Expert Advice for CLL Self-Advocacy

Refractory vs Relapsed CLL: What’s the Difference?



When is it time to treat? What factors do you look at? 

Dr. Coombs:

There’s pretty well-established guidelines for when treatment is indicated. The international workshop for CLL has these published guidelines, so it’s something you could Google. Off the top of my head, the main reasons that I do treatment, which are included in these guidelines, are one, if the patient has low blood counts due to the CLL, so that could be anemia or low platelets. Two, if they have bulky lymph nodes. They actually define bulky as 10 centimeters. So, that’s pretty big.  

Or, if the lymph nodes are being symptomatic in some way, they’re bothering the patient, they don’t have to be that big. Three, if the patient has bulky spleen enlargement or if it’s causing symptoms. The spleen is next to the stomach. So, say some patients may not be able to eat a full meal, that’s another reason we could do treatment.   

Another reason is if the CLL is causing constitutional symptoms. Sometimes these are black and white. One is unintentional weight loss of 10 percent or more of the body weight. The one that’s not always black and white is fatigue. Patients can have fatigue from the CLL, but I’ve found often fatigue can be due to other causes. So, that’s something I consider an important job of mine is to make sure we don’t jump into CLL treatment if say, there’s some other cause for the tiredness, such as, say the thyroid’s off, or there’s a huge amount of stress due to some other factor outside of the CLL.  

Then, some other constitutional symptoms are CLL can cause fever or drenching night sweats. Those two it’s important to make sure that there’s not a concurrent infection because infections can also cause those symptoms. The last indication is patients with CLL can develop autoimmune cytopenias. That’s when the immune system attacks some component of the blood cells. Most commonly that’s an autoimmune anemia or autoimmune thrombocytopenia. That’s the term for low platelets.  

Usually, we can treat that with steroids or occasionally CD-20 by itself like rituximab to calm down the immune system. However, if those immune-based therapies fail the patient, then we could consider treating the CLL to help fix that problem.