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Headshot of Shakira Grant
UNC Lineberger’s Shakira Grant, MBBS

The National Institute on Aging has awarded UNC Lineberger’s Shakira Grant, MBBS, a two-year research grant totaling $200,000 to study the illness and treatment experiences – and its impact on physical, emotional and cognitive functioning – of older adults with multiple myeloma and their care partners.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in white blood cells and is most often diagnosed in older people, with a median age at diagnosis of almost 70. It disproportionately affects Black Americans, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma and to die from the disease. Most adults with this condition also have several other age-related health conditions, including multiple chronic diseases and cognitive and functional limitations.

“With the increasing availability of new therapies to treat myeloma, there is a growing urgency to understand how the benefits and harms of these treatments shape functional capacity, quality of life, and the illness experience,” said Grant, an assistant professor of medicine at UNC School of Medicine and board-certified geriatrician, hematologist and oncologist specializing in the care of older adults with blood cancers.

Grant will lead an observational study to track and measure cognitive and physical function and quality of life among older adults newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She will use the geriatric assessment and a cognitive battery as part of the study’s assessments. The study’s goals include identifying predictors of these outcomes and recording the experiences and perspectives of older adults with myeloma and their care partners on illness and care received.

Findings from the study will help shape the design of a larger observational study that will compare outcomes of different myeloma treatments in older adults.

“While disease-specific endpoints remain highly relevant to older adults with myeloma, more global outcome measures addressing the impact of disease and treatment on the whole person are critical,” Grant said. “Therefore, evaluating measures of function and quality of life, which are increasingly relevant to older adults, are critical as these can profoundly shape the illness experience.”