Trying to process all of the information that I heard at The American Society of Hematology (ASH) Conference is a bit overwhelming. But, the one thing I can say (without looking at my many pages of notes) is that advances in multiple myeloma treatments are on the fast-track and a countless number of researchers are dedicated to curing myeloma. My pre-ASH blog was entitled “Imagine Moving Forward,” and I left ASH with no doubt that we are moving forward by improving the treatments available, lessening the side effects, and reaching the ultimate goal—a cure. Also, I physically moved forward during my visit to ASH: logging over 13 miles (almost 30,000 steps) according to my Fitbit.
The sense of dedication and collaboration among the members of the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) never ceases to amaze me. This group is now made up of over 200 members—the “who’s who” in the myeloma world and the promising up and coming scientists—all who are dedicated to the cure.
The entire myeloma community was thrilled with the recent approvals of Darzalex (daratumumab) and Empliciti (elotuzumab), and Ninlaro (ixazomib), but the information presented at ASH went far beyond the discussion of how and when these drugs are going to be used. Almost 800 abstracts related to myeloma this year were presented—a number that climbs each year! Many of the abstracts covered subjects that we’ve discussed in years past, but the additional information serves as a way to add a bit more clarity to what is a very confusing cancer.
I’m continuing to process all of the information presented; however, a few take-aways that I will definitely be sharing with members of the Chattanooga Multiple Myeloma Networking Group are the following:
- Stem cell transplants remain the standard of care especially for younger patients; followed by consolidation treatment to further deepen the benefits of the transplant;
- The combination of Revlimid®/VELCADE®/dexamethasone remains a primary tool for patients before transplant, and for patients who are not able to or do not elect to have a transplant after induction therapy. Older patients, who are not transplant eligible, show superior results using a three-drug induction therapy versus a two-drug regimen, even if the doses of the three drugs need to be reduced due to frailty concerns;
- Determining the status of a patient’s myeloma using minimal residual disease (MRD) testing was a part of countless abstracts; however, the testing still needs to be further refined before it’s ready for “prime time;”
- Kyprolis® (carfilzomib) continues to show positive results and contributes much less to peripheral neuropathy, although other adverse events may occur.
- Maintenance continues to improve progression free survival, and patients who are not eligible for transplant may use it continually instead of for a fixed amount of time.
- An all-oral treatment regimen is now a possibility with the approval of Ninlaro (ixazomib);
- The new monoclonal antibodies offer great hope for those who have relapsed on current treatment prodigals, and their use will definitely be expanded beyond the combinations that were most recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
I’d like to thank the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) and the pharmaceutical sponsors who provided me the opportunity to attend ASH this year. It’s an invaluable experience that offers me so much hope for my future and the future of all myeloma patients. The IMF has always been keenly focused on the patient’s needs, and was the first organization to see the importance of taking patients to ASH so that we could experience the progress first-hand to share the patient’s perspective with others. Also, many thanks to Robin Tuohy who tirelessly planned and executed every detail so that our experience was maximized!