By Michael Tuohy
Saturday night during the 56th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, the support group leaders team had the opportunity to attend the IMF’s Brian D. Novis Senior and Junior Research Grant Awards Reception. The IMF awards Brian D. Novis Junior and Senior Research Grants each year to “provide much-needed funding support for research projects being conducted by the best and the brightest in our field,” according to IMF President Susie Novis. Funding grants since 1994 to honor IMF Co-Founder Brian D. Novis, the IMF is now the premier funder of myeloma research grants, having awarded over 115 grants that have opened the doors to new ideas and major advancements in treatments.
Since I have been attending ASH with the IMF, this evening has become one of my favorite events. In the past, I had the pleasure of speaking at the event, but to me, it is a special evening where patients, researchers, and doctors are able to come together to inspire each other.
This year, two of the speakers just happened to be on our support group leader social media team attending ASH: Yelak Biru @NorthTxMSG and Cindy Chmielewski @MyelomaTeacher. Yelak shared a speech he titled “Journey of a Thousand Steps Begins with Taking Charge” and Cindy shared “Myeloma Teach Out,” which focused on her going from a polite, submissive patient to still being polite, but not so submissive. Yelak and Cindy personify the IMF’s motto of Knowledge is Power = Patients in Action!
There were also two other patients at the event to share their story. Dana Davis, from the Atlanta area, shared his treatment journey. “I’ve had myeloma for 14 years. Daratumumab is the first drug that put me into complete remission. But throughout this experience, I’ve been able to keep on working.” Phillip Wornum from the Boston area also attended and spoke of his diagnosis of MGUS in1992, progressing to myeloma in 2011, and his experience of being a Boston firefighter. Phillip is on ixazomib and shared, “It’s knocked my myeloma down to a chronic disease. But I know, just like with the fires, the danger’s still there. But I get to be here every day. And I feel good!”
The latter part of the evening was the awarding of the Brian D. Novis Senior and Junior Research Grants. This is a chance to meet and talk with the young and inspiring researchers in myeloma to learn more about their goals. These researchers are our future and I applaud them for working in the field of myeloma!
I had the pleasure of speaking with Hiroyuki Takamatsu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Science, Ishikawa, Japan. He received a grant for minimal residual disease (MRD) monitoring in myeloma using next generation sequencing. We chatted about his research and he told me: “Based on these methods, we will decipher the mechanisms of 67LR-dependent apoptosis and based on novel molecular mechanisms, we will suggest the ideal combination to kill multiple myeloma cells.” Now that’s what a patient loves to hear – kill those myeloma cells! As a matter of fact, each night when I take my oral therapy, my wife and I say those exact words.
Thank you to all the researchers and to the IMF for providing them with the grant to fund further research in myeloma.