By Linda Huguelet
Saturday’s activities at the 56th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting reinforced how confident I am that a cure for myeloma is a definite possibility! This is something that wasn’t even talked about in 2010 when I was diagnosed; this is amazing progress in a short period of time. The day was a long one and left me a bit physically tired, but mentally I was totally rejuvenated by all the hopeful things I’d experienced.
My first stop of the day was attending the IMF’s International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) breakfast. Even though it started at 6:30 am, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Witnessing the top myeloma researchers from around the world discuss their research projects brought me great hope – it’s so refreshing to see so much collaboration exists within the group! Their 180 members are totally open and eager to share ideas that will improve the lives of patients until they find a cure. They challenge each other’s ideas to achieve the best possible outcomes on all of their projects. Their guidelines on best practices help assist the local clinician in their daily practice and their research projects pool the data needed to have more valid studies.
Next stop was a presentation by Dr. Jesus San-Miguel of the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain who was selected to give the prestigious ASH Ham-Wasserman Lecture this year. His topic was Multiple Myeloma: A Modern Model for Scientific and Clinical Progress. Over 6,000 of the record-breaking 26,000 people attending ASH this year listened closely as he reviewed the amazing advances in myeloma treatments over the last decade. He shared his thoughts on the current and future tools he sees in the myeloma armamentarium. He emphasized the need for more sensitive testing and evaluation for today’s myeloma patient who is living longer and being exposed to more treatment regimens.
I took some time in the afternoon to explore the vast exhibit hall and stopped by the booths of the leading pharmaceutical companies working in the myeloma space. They were armed and ready to share their current and upcoming medications available for myeloma patients. I was especially interested in the companies developing the monoclonal antibodies. It appears that this new class of drug is progressing well and many trials are under way in order to move toward approval. I was also encouraged by the amount of interest and questioning I saw from the physicians in all the booths related to myeloma! Check out a photo of the exhibit floor – you can really walk a few miles in there!
The day concluded with a reception for the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) research grant recipients, the Brian D. Novis Senior and Junior Research Grant Awards Ceremony. Nine grants were given to up and coming researchers from around the world. Each was so pleased to be able to use these grants to test their hypothesis, which can lead to advancements for myeloma patients. Another special part of the evening included 4 patients sharing their myeloma stories! This really brought home to the recipients how their research goes from the lab to the lives of actual patients. All of the patient speakers shared very personally how myeloma has changed their lives and how they have become stronger people because of it. Two of the patients spoke about their positive experiences participating in monoclonal antibody clinical trials.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a myeloma diagnosis but I hope sharing just a few of the things in the works to improve our lives keeps you as hopeful as I am!