Myeloma Blood Tests: What Does an Increase in Kappa Light Chain Numbers Mean?

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What are kappa light chains? In this Patient Power segment, Host Dr. Susan Leclair discusses what kappa light chains are and answers what an increase in kappa light chain numbers might mean for a patient with myeloma. In the clip, Dr. Leclair provides a thorough scientific breakdown of light chains and the way they work. Dr. Leclair is a Patient Power host and retired chancellor professor from the Department of Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Dr. Leclair:

Picture in your mind every protein that you own.  That's the total protein.  It gets divided up into albumin and globulins.  We're not going to talk about albumins.  We're just going to talk about the globulins.  I can then separate out globulins into smaller classes.  

One class of gob—globulins—gobulins—one class of globulins is called gamma globulins, and they're antibodies.  It's going to look like an X, sort of.  The top half of the X is a smaller piece than the bottom half of the X, which is called the heavy chain.  The small top part is called the light chain. 

Light chains come in two basic structures, a lambda chain and a kappa chain.  They should be in a particular proportion to each other, because one might do better with pollen, and another one might do better with viruses.  One of them might do better with something that you ate yesterday, and another one might do better structurally fighting off the viruses that someone sneezed in your face yesterday.  So you should have a mixture of kappa chains and lambda chains. 

When you have lambda chains that are being outproduced it means most likely that the cells producing the lambda chains are out of control.  Why they're out of control, that's—that question is kind of out of my league.  That question has to be answered by your physician.  Because it could be a cold or some single response like that, but it also could mean that the myeloma is becoming more aggressive, and there's no way I can give an answer to that.  Your healthcare team is the one that's going to be best to answer that question.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on July 6, 2017