Multiple Myeloma and Kidney Failure: Understanding the Connection

Multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow, and kidney failure, a condition characterized by the loss of kidney function, are two distinct medical conditions that share a complex relationship. The interplay between multiple myeloma and kidney failure poses significant challenges for patients and healthcare providers alike. In multiple myeloma, abnormal plasma cells can directly affect the kidneys, leading to renal damage and eventual kidney failure. 

Conversely, kidney failure can exacerbate the progression and complications of multiple myeloma, influencing treatment options and patient outcomes. In this article, we delve into the intricate association between multiple myeloma and kidney failure, exploring the impact on patients, diagnostic approaches, treatment considerations, and advancements in research. 

By comprehending this connection, we aim to shed light on effective management strategies and improved quality of life for those affected by these intertwined conditions.

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is an aggressive form of cancer that affects plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow. 

This cancerous condition disrupts the normal production of antibodies, leading to the overgrowth of abnormal plasma cells. 

These cells accumulate in the bone marrow and can cause a variety of complications throughout the body. Understanding the key aspects of multiple myeloma is crucial for comprehending its relationship with kidney failure.

Definition of Multiple Myeloma:

Multiple myeloma is a malignant neoplasm characterized by the proliferation of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow. 

It is the second most common blood cancer, accounting for approximately 1% of all cancers. This cancer primarily affects older adults, with the average age of diagnosis being 69 years.

multiple myeloma and kidney failure

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of multiple myeloma is unknown. However, several factors have been identified as potential contributors to its development, including:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Exposure to certain chemicals or radiation
  • Weakened immune system
  • Age and gender (males are at a slightly higher risk)
  • African American ethnicity

Read More: What Illegal Drugs Cause Kidney Failure?

Common Symptoms

Multiple myeloma can present with a range of symptoms, which may vary from person to person. These symptoms may include:

  • Bone pain, especially in the spine, ribs, or hips
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Frequent infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Kidney problems (which will be discussed further in relation to kidney failure)


Diagnosing multiple myeloma involves several tests and procedures, including:

  • Blood and urine tests to detect abnormal proteins and assess kidney function
  • Bone marrow biopsy to examine the plasma cells and determine their malignancy
  • Imaging studies (such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs) to evaluate bone damage or organ involvement
multiple myeloma and kidney failure

Staging and Prognosis

Multiple myeloma is staged based on the International Staging System (ISS), which takes into account factors like levels of certain proteins and blood cell counts. 

The prognosis for multiple myeloma varies depending on several factors, including the stage of the disease, the overall health of the individual, and the response to treatment.

Read More: Stent Removal After Kidney Transplant: Ensuring a Smooth Recovery

The Link between Multiple Myeloma and Kidney Failure

Multiple myeloma and kidney failure share a significant relationship, with the presence of multiple myeloma often leading to kidney damage and, in some cases, kidney failure. 

Impact of Multiple Myeloma on the Kidneys

Multiple myeloma can directly affect the kidneys through various mechanisms, including:

  • Overproduction of abnormal proteins: In multiple myeloma, abnormal plasma cells produce excessive amounts of monoclonal proteins, also known as M-proteins. These proteins can accumulate in the kidneys, leading to damage and impaired kidney function.
  • Deposition of amyloid proteins: Some cases of multiple myeloma can result in the deposition of amyloid proteins in the kidneys. This condition, known as amyloidosis, can cause inflammation and damage to the kidney tissues.
  • Hypercalcemia: Multiple myeloma can cause increased levels of calcium in the blood, a condition called hypercalcemia. This can lead to the formation of calcium deposits in the kidneys, affecting their function.

Prevalence and Incidence Rates

Kidney involvement is a common complication of multiple myeloma, with approximately 20-50% of patients experiencing some degree of kidney damage during the course of the disease. 

The incidence rates of kidney failure in multiple myeloma patients vary, but it is estimated that around 5-20% of individuals with multiple myeloma will develop kidney failure.

multiple myeloma and kidney failure

Mechanisms of Kidney Damage

The mechanisms by which multiple myeloma causes kidney damage include:

  • Tubular injury: The presence of abnormal proteins in the kidneys can cause damage to the renal tubules, impairing their ability to reabsorb essential substances and eliminate waste products effectively.
  • Interstitial inflammation: Inflammatory responses triggered by abnormal proteins or amyloid deposits can lead to inflammation in the kidney’s interstitial tissues, further compromising renal function.
  • Glomerular damage: Multiple myeloma can also affect the glomeruli, the tiny blood vessels responsible for filtering waste products. Glomerular damage can result in proteinuria (the presence of excess protein in urine) and decreased filtration capacity.

Read More: Pain in Transplanted Kidney Area

Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis

The clinical manifestations of kidney involvement in multiple myeloma can vary widely, and prompt diagnosis is essential for appropriate management. 

Identifying the signs and symptoms of kidney damage, along with utilizing various diagnostic approaches, aids in establishing an accurate diagnosis and guiding treatment decisions.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Involvement:

When multiple myeloma affects the kidneys, the following signs and symptoms may arise:

  • Decreased urine output or oliguria
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet due to fluid retention
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Proteinuria (presence of excess protein in urine)
  • Hematuria (blood in urine)
  • Increased serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels indicate impaired kidney function

Diagnostic Tests and Imaging Modalities:

Diagnosing kidney involvement in multiple myeloma requires a combination of tests and imaging studies, including:

  • Urine analysis: Detecting the presence of abnormal proteins and evaluating proteinuria levels.
  • Serum tests: Measuring levels of creatinine, BUN, and other kidney function markers.
  • Kidney biopsy: A tissue sample is taken from the kidney to examine for the presence of abnormal proteins, amyloid deposits, or other signs of damage.
  • Imaging studies: X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs may be performed to assess the kidneys’ structure and identify any abnormalities, such as calcifications or masses.
multiple myeloma and kidney failure

Additional Considerations:

It is important to note that the diagnosis of kidney involvement in multiple myeloma may also involve collaboration with nephrologists (kidney specialists) to determine the extent of renal damage and establish the most appropriate treatment plan. 

Furthermore, regular monitoring of kidney function throughout the course of multiple myeloma treatment is crucial for assessing treatment response and adjusting management strategies as needed.

Treatment Approaches

Effectively managing multiple myeloma and kidney failure requires a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses both conditions. 

By combining systemic therapies to target underlying cancer and renal-specific interventions to preserve or improve kidney function, healthcare providers aim to optimize patient outcomes and enhance the quality of life.

Management Strategies for Multiple Myeloma:

Multiple myeloma treatment typically involves a combination of the following approaches:

  • Chemotherapy: Various chemotherapy regimens, such as proteasome inhibitors, immunomodulatory drugs, and monoclonal antibodies, are employed to target and destroy malignant plasma cells.
  • Stem cell transplantation: High-dose chemotherapy, followed by the infusion of healthy stem cells, may be recommended for eligible patients to achieve disease remission or control.
  • Targeted therapies: Novel targeted drugs, such as proteasome inhibitors and immunomodulatory agents, specifically inhibit pathways involved in the growth and survival of myeloma cells.
  • Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory medications are often used in combination with other treatments to enhance their effectiveness.
  • Radiation therapy: In localized cases or to alleviate pain from bone lesions, targeted radiation therapy may be employed.

Read More: Why Don’t They Remove the Old Kidneys During a Transplant?

Renal-Specific Interventions:

To address kidney failure in multiple myeloma patients, the following interventions may be considered:

  • Fluid and electrolyte management: Maintaining adequate hydration and balancing electrolyte levels is crucial to support kidney function.
  • Medications: Medications to control blood pressure, reduce proteinuria, and manage complications of kidney failure, such as anemia or bone disease, may be prescribed.
  • Dialysis: In severe cases of kidney failure, dialysis (either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) may be necessary to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood.
  • Plasma exchange: This therapeutic procedure involves removing and replacing the patient’s plasma to eliminate harmful substances and improve kidney function.
  • Kidney transplantation: For eligible patients, kidney transplantation may be an option to restore kidney function. However, careful evaluation and coordination with the multiple myeloma treatment plan are necessary.

Multidisciplinary Approach:

Treating multiple myeloma and kidney failure requires a collaborative effort involving hematologists/oncologists, nephrologists, radiation oncologists, and supportive care teams. 

Close communication and coordination among these specialists are essential to ensure comprehensive management, minimize treatment-related complications, and optimize patient outcomes.

Prognosis and Outlook

The prognosis of individuals with both multiple myeloma and kidney failure can vary based on several factors, including the stage of cancer, the extent of kidney involvement, response to treatment, and overall health status. 

Understanding the prognostic factors and potential outcomes is crucial for patients and healthcare providers to set realistic expectations and develop appropriate treatment plans.

Impact of Kidney Failure on Multiple Myeloma Prognosis:

The presence of kidney failure in multiple myeloma patients can significantly impact prognosis and treatment outcomes. Factors to consider include:

  • Treatment challenges: Kidney failure may limit the use of certain chemotherapy agents or require dose adjustments to minimize renal toxicity.
  • Increased complications: Kidney failure can lead to complications such as electrolyte imbalances, anemia, and bone disease, which can further affect overall health and treatment response.
  • Prognostic scoring systems: Several scoring systems, such as the Revised International Staging System (R-ISS), incorporate kidney function as a prognostic factor to assess overall disease prognosis.

Read More: Does Alkaline Water Cause Kidney Stones?

Factors Influencing Survival Rates

Several factors influence survival rates in multiple myeloma patients with kidney failure, including:

  • Stage and aggressiveness of multiple myeloma: Advanced disease stages or aggressive forms of multiple myeloma may have a poorer prognosis.
  • Treatment response: Achieving a favorable response to treatment, including reduction of cancer burden and improvement in kidney function, is associated with better outcomes.
  • Overall health status: Patient age, comorbidities, and functional status can impact treatment tolerance and overall survival rates.
  • Depth of kidney involvement: The severity and duration of kidney dysfunction can influence long-term prognosis.

Advancements and Prognostic Factors:

Advances in multiple myeloma treatments, including novel therapies and improved supportive care measures, have positively influenced prognosis and outcomes. 

Prognostic factors that can provide insight into disease course and outcomes include genetic abnormalities, cytogenetic markers, and specific biomarkers associated with disease aggressiveness.


Multiple myeloma and kidney failure present complex challenges that require a multidisciplinary approach for optimal management. 

The integration of supportive care measures, including symptom management, renal support, psychosocial support, and patient education, plays a vital role in addressing the diverse needs of individuals facing these conditions.

Advancements in research, such as the identification of biomarkers, targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and renal protection strategies, hold promise for improved treatment options and personalized approaches. 

Ongoing clinical trials provide opportunities to explore innovative interventions and further enhance our understanding of these diseases.

However, prognosis and treatment outcomes can vary based on several factors, including disease stage, treatment response, and overall health status. 

It is crucial for healthcare providers to engage in open communication with patients, set realistic expectations, and provide comprehensive care that focuses not only on disease treatment but also on supportive measures to enhance quality of life.


Can multiple myeloma cause kidney failure?

Yes, multiple myeloma can cause kidney failure. The abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells can accumulate in the kidneys, leading to damage and impaired kidney function.

What are the symptoms of kidney involvement in multiple myeloma?

Symptoms may include decreased urine output, swelling in the legs, fatigue, high blood pressure, proteinuria, hematuria, and increased serum creatinine levels.

How is kidney involvement in multiple myeloma diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves urine analysis, serum tests, kidney biopsy, and imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.

What treatment options are available for multiple myeloma and kidney failure?

Treatment approaches include chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, targeted therapies, radiation therapy, fluid and electrolyte management, medications, dialysis, plasma exchange, and kidney transplantation.

What is the prognosis for multiple myeloma and kidney failure?

Prognosis varies depending on factors such as disease stage, treatment response, and overall health status. Regular monitoring, adherence to treatment plans, and supportive care measures can optimize prognosis.

How can supportive care help in managing multiple myeloma and kidney failure?

Supportive care addresses symptom management, renal support, psychosocial support, and patient education, aiming to improve quality of life and overall well-being.

Are there any advancements in the treatment of multiple myeloma and kidney failure?

Yes, advancements include targeted therapies, immunotherapies, novel agents, combination therapies, renal protection strategies, and ongoing clinical trials.

How can patients participate in clinical trials for multiple myeloma and kidney failure?

Patients can consult with their healthcare providers to explore clinical trial options and determine eligibility.

What role does communication play in the management of these conditions?

Open communication between healthcare providers and patients is essential for setting realistic expectations, providing support, and ensuring personalized care throughout the treatment journey.

Medical References

  • Rajkumar, S. V. (2016). Multiple myeloma: 2016 update on diagnosis, risk-stratification, and management. American Journal of Hematology, 91(7), 719-734.
  • Dimopoulos, M. A., et al. (2021). Treatment of patients with multiple myeloma and renal impairment with monoclonal antibodies: a European Myeloma Network recommendation. Blood Advances, 5(12), 3377-3385.
  • Leung, N., et al. (2020). International Myeloma Working Group updated criteria for the diagnosis of multiple myeloma. The Lancet Oncology, 21(12), e573-e584.
  • Ludwig, H., et al. (2021). Supportive care in multiple myeloma: a European Myeloma Network perspective. Leukemia, 35(4), 983-1002.
  • Leung, N., et al. (2020). Kidney disease and multiple myeloma. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 15(3), 404-415.
  • Aapro, M. S., et al. (2021). Renal complications in multiple myeloma and the role of bortezomib: A roundtable discussion by an Italian group of physicians. Leukemia Research, 108, 106608.

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