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Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Thousands Diagnosed in Icelandic Blood Cancer Study

More than 3,600 people have been diagnosed with pre-stage myeloma in an Icelandic study involving blood screening, Vísir reports. Nearly 60 entered drug treatment as a result, which has been effective. The European Research Council has decided to support the research program with a grant of €2 million [ISK 285 million; $2.2 million], enabling the study to continue.

Myeloma is an incurable type of blood cancer that develops from bone marrow cells. Patients’ outlook is generally better when it is diagnosed early. In the autumn of 2016, a national campaign was launched in Iceland to screen for the disease; a collaboration between the University of Iceland, the National University Hospital, and the Icelandic Cancer Society. The aim of the study is to investigate the effects of screening for pre-stage myeloma, to investigate the causes and consequences of the disease, and to improve the lives of those diagnosed with myeloma and search for a possible cure.

More than 75,000 samples have been screened in the study, diagnosing more than 3,600 people with pre-stage myeloma, and almost 300 with advanced myeloma. Those with advanced myeloma have been invited to participate in drug trials with the aim of preventing the progression of the disease.

Effective drug treatment of precursors

Sigurður Yngvi Kristinsson, professor of blood diseases at the University of Iceland’s School of Medicine and a specialist at the National University Hospital, is the recipient of the European Research Council grant. “This is a great recognition for me and the whole research team and the good work that we have been doing lately, and, of course, it enables us to continue researching myeloma and its precursors,” he stated.

“By searching carefully, we find people who are on the verge of developing myeloma,” Sigurður Yngvi explained. “They have what is called smouldering myeloma and are at great risk of that developing into myeloma. And we have been able to intervene before they get myeloma and give them drug treatment, and have nearly 60 people in drug treatment now and some have completed two years of drug treatment with great success, and that is perhaps the biggest milestone.”

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