Researchers identified certain demographic and clinical characteristics associated with levels of symptom burden in patients with multiple myeloma (MM) in a new study conducted in China. Study results were published in the journal BMJ Open.

“Our findings revealed that a high prevalence of burdensome symptoms was found in this population during treatment, and 63.4% of patients reported different degrees of symptom burden, which deserves clinical attention,” the study investigators wrote in their report.

This cross-sectional study made use of demographic and clinical data, in addition to questionnaires given to patients with MM at 2 hospitals in Guilin, China. The questionnaires included the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS)-57 and the PROMIS Cognitive Function Short Form. The research team used the survey results to group patients into categories based on symptom burden and analyzed whether patterns of demographic, clinical, and functional characteristics could be seen in association with these categories. Analyses involving clinical characteristics did not include treatment response.

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There were 216 evaluable participants, and they had a mean age of 60.3 years (range, 22 to 84). The researchers reported that depression, fatigue, and pain constituted the most common symptoms identified in study participants, which was consistent with other research.

The researchers identified 3 categories of symptom burden: class 1 had low symptom burden and included 36.6% of the patients, class 2 had moderate symptom burden and included 34.2% of the patients, and class 3 had high symptom burden and included 29.2% of the patients.

The researchers were able to identify some patterns of demographic or clinical characteristics in relation to symptom burden. Patients who had a low monthly family income showed a greater likelihood of being included in class 2 (odds ratio [OR], 3.14; P =.010). Patients who had complications of MM bone disease also showed a higher likelihood of being in class 2 (OR, 2.95; P =.029). Factors associated with being in class 3 included receiving treatment with analgesics, antidepressants, or hypnotic drugs (OR, 3.68; P =.012) and having a daily step count of less than 5000 steps (OR, 2.52; P =.039).

The researchers also found significant associations between symptom burden and functional class, including domains of physical function, cognitive function, and the ability to participate in social roles and activities. Patients who were in class 1 showed the highest scores for all functional domains, whereas patients in class 3 showed the lowest scores. 

“The identification of patients with high symptom burden management needs should focus on assessing demographic and clinical characteristics and functional status so that interventions can be designed for high-risk individuals,” the study investigators concluded in their report.


Yu C, Cai T, Zhou T, et al. Classification of symptom subtypes in patients with multiple myeloma during treatment: a cross-sectional survey study in China. BMJ Open. 2023;13(3):e066467. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2022-066467

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor