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More than a century ago Bence Jones described a remarkable protein in the urine of a patient with softening and fragility of the bones. Addition of a strong mineral acid to the urine caused precipitation of the protein, which dissolved when the mixture was boiled. This protein, named after its discoverer, has since become a useful clue in the diagnosis of multiple myeloma.
Limitations of this clue, however, became apparent on discovery that only in 20%-30% of patients with myeloma was this protein excreted. Furthermore, its presence in the urine of 10%-15% of patients with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia detracted from diagnostic specificity. The long prevailing ignorance of the nature of this protein—only ten years ago it was considered by some to be an excretory metabolic product—further downgraded its importance for the physician.
The isolation of Bence Jones proteins (there are more than one) in serum as well as in urine and
BENCE JONES PROTEINS. JAMA. 1967;202(5):430. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130180096022
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