Researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered a link between sleep apnea and multiple myeloma, a deadly blood cancer, that could lead to earlier and more effective treatment of the disease.

Mahmoud Ali, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at the UI, says the findings provide a better understanding of how sleep apnea may drive multiple myeloma.

“Multiple myeloma is a serious type of cancer, and it’s incurable right now,” says Ali. “We’re trying to look at what could be a modifiable factor so we can prevent or decrease the risk of people developing the cancer.”

Multiple myeloma is a cancer in plasma cells, which are an important part of the immune system. As the cancer progresses, it collects in bone marrow and destroys the solid parts of bones.