Updated Diagnostic Criteria and Staging System for Multiple Myeloma

There has been remarkable progress made in the diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma (MM). The median survival of the disease has doubled as a result of several new active drugs. These advances have necessitated a revision of the disease definition and staging of MM. Until recently, MM was defined by the presence of end-organ damage, specifically hypercalcemia, renal failure, anemia, and bone lesions (CRAB features) that can be attributed to the clonal process. In 2014, the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) updated the diagnostic criteria for MM to add three specific biomarkers that can be used to diagnose the disease in patients who did not have CRAB features: clonal bone marrow plasma cells greater than or equal to 60%, serum free light chain (FLC) ratio greater than or equal to 100 provided involved FLC level is 100 mg/L or higher, or more than one focal lesion on MRI. In addition, the definition was revised to allow CT and PET-CT to diagnose MM bone disease. These changes enable early diagnosis and allow the initiation of effective therapy to prevent the development of end-organ damage for patients who are at the highest risk. A new staging system has been developed that incorporates high-risk cytogenetic abnormalities in addition to standard laboratory markers of prognosis.