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De Roos Receives NIH Grant for Multiple Myeloma Study

January 23, 2014

De RoosAnneclaire De Roos, PhD, MPH, an Associate Professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health (right), recently received a $231,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to lead a consortium study of occupational exposures and family history in relation to multiple myeloma.

The study will combine and analyze information from 13 smaller studies of multiple myeloma that will produce a very large data set with the power to identify potential risk factors for multiple myeloma, including solvent exposures in occupation and family history of lymphomas/leukemias.

Multiple myeloma is one of the most fatal cancers, with a five-year relative survival rate of only 36 percent in the US since 1990.

According to De Roos, exposure to solvents is widespread, both in certain jobs and in the general environment.  Yet, few causes of myeloma have been identified in individual, small studies and there is a strong need for data quantifying cancer risks for suspected and known carcinogens, including trichcloroethylene (TCE) and benzene, particularly for types of cancer that are less well-described or for which the association is controversial.

“There are studies suggesting that these and other solvents may increase the risk of multiple myeloma,” said De Roos.  “However, individual, regionally-based epidemiologic studies of multiple myeloma have been severely limited by the disease's rarity, hindering the ability to describe these associations with confidence.  Much larger numbers are needed to study occupational solvent exposures, particularly to characterize risks across varying exposure intensity levels or with increasing duration.”

De Roos and her research team will pool data from case-control studies participating in the International Multiple Myeloma Consortium (IMMC). Completed studies participating in the IMMC include over 3,600 cases and 12,000 controls with questionnaire data on occupation.

The research team will assess exposure to five specific solvents: TCE, perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, toluene, and xylene.  The study will also harmonize family history of lymphohematopoietic cancer across the IMMC studies to evaluate its impact on the susceptibility to develop multiple myeloma.

“The study may yield important knowledge that can build towards prevention of this disease, particularly among susceptible subpopulations,” said De Roos.