Sponsored by GSK
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects a person’s plasma cells, which helps the body fight infection and disease. It can permanently weaken bones and damage organs,1 and it’s the most common blood cancer in people of African American descent.2 In fact, Black patients are diagnosed with multiple myeloma twice as often as other groups and have a mortality rate that’s twice as high.3
We can’t fix these disparities overnight, but we can start improving patient outcomes by raising awareness in underserved communities, increasing clinical trial recruitment in minority populations, and helping patients get access to healthcare professionals. Let’s take a deeper look at this three-step strategy:
1. Strengthen community awareness and increase health equity
Back pain, weakness, fatigue, frequent urination and constipation can all be signs of getting older. They may also be signs of multiple myeloma.4 That’s one reason why addressing the lack of community awareness is so essential. Knowing about the disease can lead to an earlier diagnosis, increasing the odds of a better outcome. But where can someone learn enough to think to speak with their doctor?
Target the Future, a global initiative from GSK, asks for ideas aimed at increasing awareness and equity while targeting disparities in multiple myeloma. Through its Think Tank Challenge, a $100,000 grant is awarded to help bring the strongest proposal to life. The first recipient was the HealthTree Foundation, a non-profit helping multiple myeloma patients become their own best advocates. HealthTree is using the grant to improve access, education and support for disadvantaged populations and minority patients.
Inspired by the potential of these programs, the next round of the Think Tank Challenge will focus entirely on targeting disparities. Check out the application entry page to learn more. Your idea, or even just sharing the initiative and its call for entries, could help create a better future for patients living with multiple myeloma.
2. Increase clinical trial participation in minority populations
Even though 20% of multiple myeloma patients living in the United States are Black, this population makes up less than 5% of clinical trial participants.5 We can and must address this, because the more representation we have in clinical trials, the greater understanding we’ll have of how therapies affect different ethnicities. It can also help ensure the right treatments get to the communities that need them.
Clinical trials are important. So is putting feet on the ground in underserved communities to try and build trust, remove the complexities around information and enrollment, and increase participation. Because beyond helping advance science, taking part in a clinical trial can provide a patient with access to novel, innovative therapies before they’re available to the general public, or after all other options have been exhausted. It can be the key to better outcomes.
3. Improve access to quality medical care
Black Americans are less likely to have private insurance than white Americans, and non-white multiple myeloma patients on Medicare and Medicaid just don’t get the same access to new treatments or transplants.6 That lack of coverage can keep people away from their doctors for non-emergency situations, leading to slower diagnosis and worse outcomes.
While there’s no quick fix for the insurance puzzle, there are other ways to expand access to care. From offering rides to the healthcare center, to covering a colleague’s shift or watching their kids so they can visit the doctor, seemingly simple acts can help lead someone to treatment.
Let’s come together to improve multiple myeloma care for Black patients
There’s so much we can do to make a difference. Visit Target the Future. Have honest conversations with your doctors. Find support in family, friends and your community, and make sure they all know the symptoms of multiple myeloma. Each of these steps can help replace mystery with awareness. Remember – none of us are alone, and the more voices we add to the chorus, the clearer our collective voice will be in demanding equality of treatment and outcomes.