Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Bone marrow is a soft substance found in the innermost part of our bones (especially in the vertebrae, ribs, pelvis and breastbone). It is used to make red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells. There are different types of white blood cells. These include plasma cells. When plasma cells become cancer cells, this is known as multiple myeloma or Kahler's disease.

The normal function of plasma cells in the body is to produce antibodies (proteins the body uses to fight infections). In most cases, when this plasma cell turns into a cancer cell, it also produces an abnormal protein. This protein can be detected in the urine or the blood.

Over time, normal bone marrow cells are overcome by the plasma cells. Anaemia can result (due to a lack of red blood cells), as can bleeding tendency (due to a lack of platelets) and the risk of infection (due to a lack of white blood cells). The rampant cells also affect the normal bone tissue, which creates weak spots in the skeleton. These can usually be seen on an X-ray.

Diagnosis and treatment


Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for Kahler's disease. Radiation therapy is sometimes employed.

Younger patients generally receive a stem cell transplant with their own cells at some point during their treatment.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Integrated Cancer Centre in Ghent

Latest publication date: 21/01/2021