ASH is a combination of excitement, discovery, and fatigue

| Jim Omel

This year’s ASH is going by quickly with our days full of activity. We IMF support group leaders began this morning with a group discussion of our days to date. We covered many of the new advancements (largely immunotherapy) and discussed new potential drugs like Selinexor®. We  must remember that releasing the immune system to become more active (checkpoint inhibitors) comes with significant potential toxicities. The immune system can begin recognizing healthy body tissue as “non-self,” and attack it. Naturally occurring diseases with this pathology include rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In one case, the immune system attacks joint cartilage, and in the other, the nervous system.

The best parts of ASH, as in life, are unplanned and spontaneous. I was in the poster session studying poster #2101, a potentiation of daratumumab activity with combinations of other agents such as Cytoxin, Revlimid®, or Velcade®. I noticed another man was also reading it intently. He looked familiar and as we spoke I remembered his strong Danish accent. I had heard it, and first saw him at ASH a few years ago when he reported the first ever abstract on  daratumumab. I thanked him as a myeloma patient who may one day need his remarkable drug.

Walking the LONG distances between venues gives many chances to scan the 20,000+ faces scurrying by. I recognized my own myeloma doc from Omaha, and we chatted a bit. Later in the Exhibit Hall while with Cindy Chmielewski, we met again. I introduced them, and as we talked, they came to realize they both went to the same school in New Jersey—in classes just one year apart! 

This afternoon, several excellent oral abstracts on myeloma were presented. I’ve not read his blog, but promise that Jack will explain them quite well in his report tonight. I took a “break” from hazard ratios, progression free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) rates. I attended a very interesting session on the history and economics of blood. The first blood transfusion was from a lamb. The man died. History doesn’t tell us what happened to the lamb. The first modern transfusion occurred in 1908, and both the man and his daughter lived. They must have had the same blood type because nothing was known of this concept in 1908. The use of blood is a fascinating history in WWII when 68,000 gallons of British blood were collected.

Most of our evening meals are shared with Pharma companies who make myeloma drugs. We get to know them, but more importantly they get to know us . . . what myeloma patients need and expect. We get to our rooms late, and then write about our days. It is now well after midnight. Goodnight!

Leave a Reply


Jim Omel, MD

Diagnosed with myeloma in 1997, Jim’s advocacy work includes involvement with the National Cancer Institute’s Steering Committee, the FDA, the Alliance Cooperative Group (Myeloma and Transplant Committees), Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, Moffitt Cancer Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, ASCO (CancerLinQ and bisphosphonates in Myeloma Review Panel), and of course, his Central Nebraska Myeloma Support Group.

Follow Jim on Twitter