By Yelak Biru
The more things change the more they remain the same.
When I met Dr. Robert Kyle at the IMF’s Brian Novis Junior grant award in 2006, one of the things he said to me was “there is no free lunch” referring to maintenance therapy and the unknown benefits associated with it. In the last eight years, the more things change the more they remain the same. While some research has been done to answer that dilemma, it remains a dilemma and the analysis of its pros and cons more of an art than a science.
In 2014 much has changed, MRD-Zero has further been defined. The IMF’s International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) has published updated criteria for the diagnosis of myeloma. We’ve heard the word cure and myeloma in the same sentence. Our support group has celebrated its 18th anniversary. There are more drugs than at any time in history to treat myeloma.
Much also remains the same. On average, our support group continues to lose one patient a month to myeloma and for the majority, myeloma remains life changing if not life ending. We don’t yet know how to effectively target myeloma or choose the most effective therapy. Given the same scenario, physician bias seems to determine treatment recommendation as opposed to definite algorithm. Transplant remains the gold standard.
Dr. Brian Durie says for this year’s 56th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting “there appears not to be any news that will reset the needle in the myeloma landscape.”
So, why should you still be excited about ASH?
• It will help you develop a bias to your personal treatment (or validate the bias you already have) – testing, treatment, maintenance – and it will give you the ammunition you need to continue advocating for yourself (and others)
• If you don’t have a myeloma expert on your treatment team that lives and sleeps myeloma, it will help you get “hot” information back to your treating physician
• It will also give you information on which myeloma centers you want to associate with, which clinical trials you should consider and which myeloma specialist you should consult with
• But most of all, it will give you HOPE.
On Friday, Dec. 5th, starting at 12:30 pm PT, the IMF symposium “Providing Best Options for Myeloma Treatments in 2014” will feature a sparring of ideas by leading myeloma experts. That debate continues at the IMWG Conference Series, which will be livestreamed on Monday, Dec. 8th, at 8 pm PT. In between, there are hundreds of sessions, posters and exhibitors to choose from and tweet about.
Remembering all those we lost to myeloma, I and the 10 other support group leaders – who are doctors, researchers, advocates, successful business people, bloggers, teachers – expect to share the HOPE and our experiences and learning from this year’s ASH through social media. Follow us on Twitter through the hashtag #IMFASH14 and through our blogs on the IMF site at http://ash2014blogs.myeloma.org/