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Can Gene Expression of Myeloma Cells Differ at the Single-Cell Level?

By: Gavin Calabretta, BS
Posted: Friday, April 1, 2022

Researchers from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, recently performed a single-cell RNA sequencing study, analyzing hundreds of thousands of individual plasma cells sampled from different locations in patients with multiple myeloma. According to Jens Hillengass, MD, PhD, Chief of Myeloma at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues, cells are genetically different not only across patients, but also in different areas within a patient—and apparently even more so in those with relapsed or refractory disease.

“Our multidisciplinary approach revealed important information about the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of multiple myeloma,” commented Dr. Hillengass in an institutional press release. “We discovered that myeloma cells show differences on a single-cell level in a single patient, both in different areas of the bone marrow and over time.”

The study, published in Nature Communications, included data from 148,630 plasma cells across 24 different locations in 10 patients (7 with newly diagnosed disease and 3 with relapsed or refractory disease), and the authors observed heterogeneity within and across patients. Unlike the typical biopsy obtained without imaging techniques, the researchers used whole-body imaging via positron-emission tomography and computerized tomography to identify and biopsy bone marrow and osteolytic lesion samples.

A large degree of heterogeneity was shown between patients. Consistent with the established multiple myeloma classification, the authors discovered that genes associated with myeloma bone disease (DKK1 and FRZB), cytokine signaling (IFI27 and IL6R), and EDNRB were marker genes for plasma cell clusters and that patients could be subtyped accordingly. Searching for genes that were differentially expressed within individual patients, the authors noticed certain clusters characterized by overexpression of genes encoding the microtubule-associated proteins STMN1 and TUVA1B. Reportedly, further analysis showed that gene sets associated with proliferation and oxidative phosphorylation were significantly enriched in these clusters.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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