In this interview, Dr. Peter Diamond from the Leukaemia Foundation joins HPR to talk about his organization and its support for Myeloma Month that takes place in the month of May. The Leukaemia Foundation is the only national charity in Australia dedicated to helping those with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and related blood disorders survive and then live a better quality of life. He shares about his passion for helping those suffering from blood cancers.
Dr. Peter Diamond is the Head of Support Services and the Blood Cancer Support Manager at the Leukaemia Foundation for South Australia and Northern Territory. He was postdoctoral research scientist for SA Health from 2001 to 2011. He has a great passion for helping those particularly with blood cancers such as leukaemia and myeloma.
Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Dr. Peter Diamond, the Head of Support
Services at the Leukemia Foundation. Today we’re going to talk about his organization and the amazing things that it does. Without further ado, welcome to the show Peter, it’s so nice to have you here.
Dr. Peter Diamond: Thank you very much for having me.
Tabetha: My pleasure. So Peter, please tell the audience more about yourself and what do you do exactly at the Leukemia Foundation.
Dr Diamond: So I’ve been at the Leukemia Foundation for four years now and currently I am the head of the South Australian and Northern Territory offices of the Leukemia Foundation and also head up the Leukemia Foundation Support Services in South Australia and the Northern Territory as well.
Tabetha: Fantastic. So Peter, I’ve heard that there’s a special celebration in Australia that your foundation supports. Can you tell us what event this is?
Dr Diamond: Sure. In the month of May, we highlight multiple myeloma and we do that so there are some awareness around what the disease is and for people with multiple myeloma to also understand that they are not alone and to raise awareness in the community about what multiple myeloma is.
Tabetha: I see. And speaking of myeloma, can you please explain to us what that is and how is it different from other blood cancers?
Dr Diamond: Sure. So multiple myeloma is a blood cancer which affects the body’s plasma cells, so they’re the cells that produce antibodies and it develops when these plasma cells undergo a cancerous change and become myeloma cells and they multiply at a very increased rate and take over the bone marrow. So the bone marrow produces approximately 230 billion cells in a normal human adult every day and so when multiple myeloma happens, the myeloma cells almost hijack the machinery of the bone marrow and they take over and these cells just completely take over and they prevent this bone marrow from producing all the different types of cells that it normally produces and in this particular case the multiple myeloma cells are, as we said, the plasma cells the one that makes antibodies this is the different factor between multiple myeloma and some of the other blood cancers like lymphomas and leukemias and in this particular specific cell. And so these myeloma cells grow very rapidly and take over the bone marrow and occasionally they can take over not only the bone marrow but they can spill out into the blood and because they’re basically antibody producing cells, they produce lots of antibody but the antibody doesn’t do anything, it’s not functional. And so this antibody known as power protein is what many people use to actually look at and identify that these individuals have multiple myeloma but it can have problems where it can get stuck in the kidneys and things like that and it has lots of other organ issues. One of the other problems with multiple myeloma is that sometimes it can sit around areas of bone in the bone marrow and it can stimulate osteoclasts or the bone resorbing cells and it can also stop osteoblasts from putting down new bone and this can cause very brittle bones and unfortunately can result in breakages of bones quite easily for multiple myeloma patients.
Tabetha: I se0e. Thank you so much for explaining to us about the differences between myeloma and other types of blood cancers.
Dr Diamond: No problems.
Tabetha: And now, let’s talk about who is at risk of getting this particular type of blood cancer? Is it children, is it women or older people?
Dr Diamond: So primarily multiple myeloma, it accounts for about 15% of all blood cancers and affects primarily people over the age of 65. But having said that, people as young as 35 I’ve known to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma which is quite rare but generally is over the age of 65. And in line with Australia’s ageing population and ageing populations around the world, it is blood … that’s on the rise. It is very slightly more prevalent in males than in females and sadly with our aging population, the disease itself is on the rise as well. We don’t know what causes multiple myeloma but there are some new treatments out so the survival rates for people with multiple myeloma have dramatically increased over the last five to ten years.
Tabetha: I see. Now if you don’t mind Peter, can I ask you a personal question?
Dr Diamond: Sure.
Tabetha: Why are you so passionate about helping people with blood cancers?
Dr Diamond: So my background is that I’m a medical research scientist. I worked in cancer research for a long time in particular on multiple myeloma, I did that for a very long time as well but my personal connection is that I’ve had many family members pass away with cancer. I’ve had both an uncle and auntie both passed away from a blood cancer which makes me very passionate. As a researcher, I understand that the greatest advancements in treatment and care have come from research and we as the Leukemia Foundation not only do we support people who are currently living with a blood cancer but we are also actively involved in supporting research to find better treatments and ultimately a cure for the blood cancers that we support.
Tabetha: That was a very fascinating story, thank you so much for sharing that with us. Peter, I would love to chat with you more but we’re running out of time. But before we go, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there? What would you like to tell them?
Dr Diamond: I’d like to tell them that people living with blood cancer are not alone, though people may feel like they are and that we are a foundation that supports people living with blood cancers, not only themselves but their families. We are in the month of May putting on a whole bunch of education and awareness events across the country and what we are told regularly by patients is that they wish that they were referred to the Leukemia Foundation earlier. So we ask all health professionals and people who have been diagnosed with a blood cancer to refer and come to the Leukemia Foundation and we’ll be able to support and help you through these very difficult times and also help you realize that you’re not alone and introduce you to other people who are undergoing the same things as what you are.
Tabetha: That was a fantastic message. And speaking of your foundation, how can people get in touch with the Leukemia Foundation?
Dr Diamond: They can go to our website and they should just search the Leukemia Foundation and they can go there and they find out all the information. We have lots of very specific information both for health professionals and for people living with blood cancer and they can also call Leukemia Foundation on 1-800 620420 more information and support.
Tabetha: Wonderful. Thank you so much Peter for coming on the show, it was fantastic having you.
Dr Diamond: Thank you very much.
Tabetha: And that was Dr. Peter Diamond of the Leukemia Foundation. If you liked this interview, transcripts and archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re also on all social media platforms so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. Show us some love by subscribing to our HPR YouTube channel. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.