The Myeloma Crowd is happy to announce that we have just added Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) testing to the HealthTree labs page! MRD testing is becoming more popular as patients live longer with myeloma. Researchers are using MRD testing to try and determine how well a treatment is working. In the future, myeloma experts hope that they will be able to use it to determine when treatment should be continued or when it can be stopped. Our goal is to help you keep all your myeloma information in a single place. Adding your MRD values into HealthTree is one more way that you can track your myeloma in a single place. (get started at www.healthtree.org)
HealthTree is an online tool created by myeloma patients for myeloma patients. Our goal is to help support you through your lifetime with myeloma and to use our shared myeloma experiences to accelerate a cure. (see why we created HealthTree on the Today show)
What is MRD?
Minimal residual disease testing is a more sensitive way to see how well a patient responded to treatment. It is more sensitive than the current monoclonal protein blood or bone marrow tests and can detect even a single myeloma cell in a million cells.
Types of MRD Testing
There are different methods of MRD testing. One type is "flow cytometry" and the other is "next generation sequencing (NGS)."
The MRD tests available today are not all the same level of sensitivity. For example, some can test how many myeloma cells remain after treatment by testing the number of cells per hundred thousand (10-5). More sensitive tests can detect one myeloma cell in a million cells (10-6).
Why Do MRD Testing?
Patients who finish myeloma therapy (such as a stem cell transplant or combination therapies) should ask their doctor to be tested for MRD. This will help indicate the depth of your "remission" or your response to treatment. You should also ask your doctor to run MRD tests over time to track how your myeloma is doing, as it can be helpful to detect a myeloma relapse early. If you have a detectable myeloma monoclonal protein using the standard immunoelectrophoresis test, MRD testing may not be necessary because it is obvious that you have active disease.
How Can MRD Testing Help Research?
Because myeloma patients are living longer, today’s clinical trials may take 8-10 years to identify key discoveries. If we want to learn faster, we need earlier indicators that tell us if treatment is working or not. If MRD testing can be used as a new "clinical trial endpoint" then researchers can come to conclusions in 3-5 years, not in 10. MRD testing allows researchers to pulse faster and shorten their learning inside of clinical trials.
What Does MRD Testing Mean for Me?
In general, myeloma patients who are "MRD Negative" following treatment do better and live longer. It is yet to be determined if MRD testing will affect how patients are treated. For example, if I am MRD negative after 3 years of maintenance therapy, can I stop treatment? The answer today is that we don’t know.
We invite you to join HealthTree and gather all of your labs, genetic info and MRD test results under the Track My Myeloma section. You can create an account here. If you need help, feel free to call us at 800-709-1113.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).