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Charlotte myeloma expert to speak

By Karen Garloch
Karen Garloch
Karen Garloch writes on Health for The Charlotte Observer. Her column appears each Tuesday.

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  • Charlotte Area Multiple Myeloma Support Group

    Speaker: Dr. Saad Usmani of Levine Cancer Institute.

    When: 10 a.m. Saturday Where: Carmel Presbyterian Church, 2048 Carmel Road.

    Details: Sandy Hirsch,

    704-840-6740 or

Patients with multiple myeloma and other blood cancers are about to have more treatment options through Levine Cancer Institute.

With the recent hiring of Dr. Saad Usmani from the University of Arkansas Multiple Myeloma Institute, the Charlotte-based center is now offering its first clinical trial for patients with aggressive myeloma.

Three more clinical trials will start enrolling patients in the next month or so, and stem cell transplants, which haven’t been available for adults in Charlotte, will become available in late January for eligible patients.

Usmani will describe these advances Saturday at a meeting of the Charlotte Area Multiple Myeloma Support Group.

Multiple myeloma is cancer of the bone marrow for which there is no cure. It occurs when plasma cells that help fight infection grow out of control in the bone marrow and form tumors in the bone.

Treatments include transplants, chemotherapy and radiation. Until now, most patients sought treatment outside of Charlotte.

Usmani, who’s been in Charlotte for about two months, saw patients from all 50 states at his practice in Arkansas.

“You’d be surprised how many patients we were seeing from the Carolinas … They don’t have to travel to Little Rock anymore.”

Usmani said he was persuaded to leave the University of Arkansas – “the mecca for myeloma therapy” – because of the commitment and vision displayed by leaders of Carolinas HealthCare System and Levine Cancer Institute.

“I was amazed by the resources that are being allocated to bring this value to Carolinas HealthCare System,” he said.

Usmani was also impressed by the 3-year-old institute’s ability to attract “marquee” specialists from leading U.S. cancer centers.

They include the president, Dr. Derek Raghavan, from the Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Edward Copelan, chairman of the Department of Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders, also from Cleveland; and Dr. Edward Kim, chair of the Department of Solid Tumor Oncology and Investigational Therapeutics, from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

After just a few weeks on the job, Usmani has persuaded three drug companies to use LCI as one of the sites for clinical trials.

A fourth trial is already available for newly diagnosed myeloma patients with aggressive disease that hasn’t been treated.

While in Arkansas, Usmani designed the trial, which compares a standard treatment to a regimen that also uses a new drug called elotuzumab, which he said “helps the immune system recognize the bad guys and take them out.”

“What our patients are looking for is hope that there is something out there for them,” Usmani said. “You have to push the envelope for your patients. You have to find better therapies … That’s really exciting for me.”

Garloch: 704-358-5078
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