Multiple myeloma: What to know about the cancer after death of 'Max Payne' voice actor James McCaffrey

It was estimated around 3,900 Canadians would be diagnosed with myeloma in 2023.

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James McCaffrey has died at the age of 65 after a battle with multiple myeloma. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage; Getty)
James McCaffrey has died at the age of 65 after a battle with multiple myeloma. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage; Getty)

American actor James McCaffrey has died at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer, according to Variety.

Best known for voicing Max Payne in the popular video game series, and recently Alex Casey in "Alan Wake 2," McCaffrey was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

He is being remembered for his talent and kindness by fans and those in the film and gaming industries.

TMZ first reported the news of his death, saying he succumbed to multiple myeloma.

In Canada, it was estimated that in 2023, around 3,900 Canadians would be diagnosed with myeloma — and 1,700 will die from it.

But what exactly is this form of cancer, and what are the risks of it? Here's what you need to know.

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma, or myeloma, is a type of blood cancer associated with the abnormal behavior of plasma cells—white blood cells responsible for antibody production, according to Myeloma Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society.

In the bone marrow, these abnormal plasma cells "interfere with the production of normal healthy blood cells in the bone marrow and overproduce inactive clones of abnormal antibodies." This overproduction affects various parts of the body, such as the bones and kidneys.

The cause of myeloma remains unknown, the sources explained.

Multiple myeloma, illustration. Multiple myeloma is type of cancer, it occurs when a plasma cell becomes abnormal and cancerous. The cancerous plasma cell divides and multiplies creating large amounts of abnormal antibodies
Multiple myeloma is type of cancer that occurs when a plasma cell becomes abnormal and cancerous.(Getty)

Myeloma doesn't form as a lump or tumor. Instead, its cells multiply in the bone marrow, disrupting the production of healthy blood cells. This impacts various bone marrow-active areas in the body, leading to symptoms in bones.

There is no cure for myeloma.

It follows a relapsing-remitting pattern, alternating between periods of symptomatic disease requiring treatment and stable disease controlled by treatment (remission). A relapse occurs when myeloma becomes active again after a treatment period.

What are the signs and symptoms of myeloma?

Multiple myeloma may not manifest symptoms in its early stages. Common signs include:

  • bone pain

  • weakness and fatigue

  • frequent infections

  • kidney problems

  • abnormal protein levels in blood or urine

  • weight loss

  • nervous system problems

  • dehydration and extreme thirst

The acronym CRAB is used to denote key symptoms: high blood calcium level (hypercalcemia), renal insufficiency (kidney problems), anemia, and bone disease.

What are the risks of multiple myeloma?

Myeloma Canada explained the cancer develops "when genetic 'errors' occur in the DNA of plasma cells... causing them to multiply uncontrollably and overproduce one type antibody (immunoglobulin)."

While most cancers develop due to a range of risk factors, multiple myeloma can develop in people with no identifiable risks at all, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Men are at higher risk than women, however.

Other known risks include:

  • history of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or MGUS (a plasma cell disorder)

  • family history of myeloma

  • obesity

  • farming (occupational exposure)

  • weakened immune system (as seen in HIV/AIDS or after organ transplant)

Some autoimmune conditions, viral infections and specific occupations with exposure to certain chemicals can also pose a higher risk, though research is still lacking.

Awareness, early detection and a collaborative approach between patients and healthcare providers remain crucial in managing this blood cancer, sources explained.

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