September 29 2008 post. A blog reader, thank you!, sent me a 2007 study on IgE written by an Italian research team. The full study is available here: http://tinyurl.com/4do9nx.
Intriguing, I must say. As a myeloma patient, you tend to read mostly about IgG (my type of myeloma), IgA and IgM…but not much about the other immunoglobulins. I looked up IgE and found that it triggers our body’s response to allergens such as cat dander, dust mites and pollen, and it also protects us from parasitic worms.
Well, I’d never even thought of having my IgE levels tested, so I was particularly interested in this study. The “Discussion” part tells us that This is the first study reporting polyclonal IgE levels in a large series of MGUS subjects and MM patients. To the best of our knowledge, it is also the first study reporting an association between IgE levels and Hb, and, even more interestingly, between IgE levels and survival in patients with hematologic malignancies. (“Hb” stands for haemoglobin, by the way.)
IgE levels are connected to survival? Well, well. Let’s keep reading.
The Italian researchers checked IgE levels in a large number of myeloma patients and MGUS folks and compared the results to a control group in order to determine survival and prognostic factors. They found that IgE levels progressively decreased from controls to MGUS and from MGUS to MM. And patients with high IgE levels lived 2 to 3 years longer than those with low or intermediate levels.
They concluded that high IgE levels are positive predictors of overall survival (P = 0.03 and 0.08,respectively) and strongly correlated with hemoglobin values.
Problem is, though, that total IgE levels are highly variable in general population, depending on many factors, such as age, gender, race, atopy, genetics, immune status, season of the year, tobacco smoke, and concomitant diseases. Further on we read that the Ranges of normal IgE levels are very variable, and no consensus among laboratories has been reached to define normal and pathologic values. Okay, so that could be a reason why IgE has not been taken into consideration in myeloma patients…until now, at any rate.
Another interesting finding: IgE is connected to haemoglobin (Hb) and Beta-2 microglobulin (B2M) levels. The researchers found that a high IgE meant a higher Hb and a lower B2M, and this in turn meant a better prognosisl.
In the Discussion part we find the following titbit: The positive association between IgE levels and survival can be interpreted as an indication that (a) the immune system of MM patients with higher IgE levels is less deteriorated […]. Ah.
At any rate, because IgE is an antibody connected to allergy response, the possibility that myeloma patients with allergies such as asthma would be more protected than others in terms of disease progression really (!) got my attention since I suffer periodically from bad attacks of asthma (these attacks have returned, by the way, but I think it’s just because of the change in season from hot to chilly) and other allergic reactions. Hmmm, I thought for a second, have I finally discovered something positive about having asthma and rosacea??? Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when I read that it is unlikely that allergies play a protective role in myeloma. Bummer!
This study is particularly interesting because for the first time ever a group of researchers has found a connection between IgE levels and survival prognosis. The higher those levels, the better off you are. I wonder if I could have my IgE levels tested…just out of curiosity. Or…on second thought…do I really want to know…???