This has been an experience beyond my imagination. The fact that the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) extended an invitation to attend this year’s American Society of Hematology (ASH) Conference in Orlando, Florida, was humbling. I approached this project with anxiety, wondering if I could relay an accurate impression for those who would be reading my tweets and blogs.
Many of my concerns were softened after meeting many of the 14 other Support Group Leaders, who like myself, had been invited to share their experiences while at ASH. We grew to appreciate and respect each other’s strengths, and all enjoyed the time together. Thanks to the IMF for making this possible.
Listening to the technical side of the abstracts reported by research centers from around the world, one could sense the scope and passion these researchers have for knowledge and future cure. Some points expressed surround the fact that research has shown the use of three-drug combinations has a deeper response than two-drug treatments. Also, I learned that doctors concur that smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM) should be studied in clinical trials to determine whether early treatment should be a course of action or not. For multiple myeloma patients experiencing a relapse, introducing the newer drugs Darzalex (dadtumumab), Ninlaro (ixazomib) and Empliciti (elotuzumab) has created options to be studied for future use in their treatment. Regarding minimal residual disease (MRD) as a prognostic piece alone is not very reliable, even with the clear flow results. Perhaps, it could be used along with PET-CT scan to get a better diagnostic picture. And finally, the large French study that compared late stem cell transplantation as opposed to early stem cell transplantation showed an overall progression free survival benefit, but not a three-year overall survival benefit. In addition, the data reported from these studies is still considered young and more data must be collected for more definitive answers.
As you can see, the days at ASH were exciting. From a patient’s point of view, these presentations showed much promise for the near future for all multiple myeloma patients and their families.
Again, I wish to thank the IMF for permitting me to take part in this year’s ASH Conference. You were the most generous with all aspects of this experience. I have much to share with the members of the Greater Cincinnati Myeloma Networking Group from this dynamic time in Orlando.