Attending the 58th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego was more significant to me personally than the previous two I attended. Nine years after my diagnosis, I find myself in a relapse for the first time, after only one treatment regimen. With so many clinical trials leading to stringent complete response (sCR) and negative minimum residual disease (MRD-) in many patients, I wanted to learn how to play in the game. I can only say we know that myeloma is not a single disease, every patient is different, and although it still may take a little serendipity to find what works for me, I’m happy to know that there are so many novel therapy combinations available, and so many more to come. The depth of knowledge among the clinicians and researchers at ASH is truly amazing.
I want to thank the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) for making my attendance possible, starting with Susie Novis Durie, IMF President and Co-Founder; Brian G.M. Durie, MD, IMF Chairman and Co-Founder; Robin Tuohy and Carmen Greene, who worked especially hard to plan the details and logistics for all of us; Debbie Birns, who pored over thousands of abstracts to select the most relevant agenda for us; and the many others who played a role.
I also want to thank the corporate sponsors, whose assistance made our attendance possible. Among them are Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Janssen, and Takeda Oncology. I’ve been able to create networking relationships with many of the pharmaceutical company representatives, medical researchers, and IMF staff, and these relationships have been instrumental in helping me to provide informative monthly programs for the Orange County Multiple Myeloma Support Group.
There’s no getting around it. Attending ASH requires a lot of walking. Being in relapse, I found myself limited at times by fatigue and hip pain. I quickly discovered that the meeting organizers had provided complimentary pedal cabs to transport attendees between the venues. Here I am in the photo sharing a ride with fellow support group leader John DeFlice, MD, of the Land of Enchantment Multiple Myeloma Support Group in New Mexico.
My favorite moment at ASH this year was having a one-on-one conversation with Robert A. Kyle, MD, from the Mayo Clinic, prior to the Saturday night IMF Media and Grant Awards Reception. You may recall that last year I named Dr Kyle the “Myeloma Messiah” in my blog. He is the original myeloma expert, and still very involved, now in his eighties. You will be happy to know that I didn’t treat the meeting as an office visit or second opinion consultation, although we did discuss the relative merits of different corticosteroids!
That’s a wrap for ASH 2016. Next year’s meeting is in Atlanta, and if I achieve sCR with MRD- by then, I will be very pleased to attend once more.