Excited for #ASH16: the biggest hematology meeting of the year!

| Jim Omel

For the last 57 years, ASH’s annual meeting has served as the world’s premier source of information and scientific exchange in all aspects of hematology. The 58th edition of this huge event for ~25,000 attendees will take place in San Diego the first week of December. Just as it has for the last ten years, the IMF will assist several of its support group leaders (SGL’s) to attend and report on all we discover about myeloma. We will serve as the responsible eyes and ears of our fellow leaders at home. Partnering with the IMF is a privilege, an honor, and a huge amount of work. Our days begin before sun-up and are both challenging and exciting. Our late evenings are devoted to writing tweets and blogs regarding what we have witnessed.

No one person can take in all of ASH, or even just a single part such as myeloma. Sessions occur simultaneously in different venues and in varying forms (573 myeloma posters among thousands of other posters, 114 myeloma oral presentations concurrently delivered with hundreds of orals highlighting other hematology topics, abstracts, scientific sessions, and receptions). Therefore, SGLs split our work assignments with each of us focusing on areas of interest. My special interest at ASH 2016 will be similar to last year . . . the use of MRD measurement as an effective biomarker for residual myeloma

Picking one area of myeloma interest is challenging because there is so much to take in. Clinical trial results, new drugs, and new research are so important. All of our lives depend on the information presented at ASH, where the best myeloma research in the world is highlighted every December.  Consider ASPIRE, POLLUX, CASTOR, and DETERMINATION. All of these great trials will be updated, so the ASH annual meeting has a direct effect on our personal and collective therapy.

At ASH, we SGLs learn from each other and have meaningful moments of personal interaction. We discuss our groups and how we can best share what we learn with our members. We renew friendships and acquaintances with the world’s myeloma thought leaders. It is then our privilege and responsibility to get that information out to all myeloma patients. Please follow us on Twitter for a ‘”real-time” experience, and read our blogs. The IMF will make sure all of our Twitter names are readily available.  Mine is @IMFjimMYELOMA.

Other highlights of ASH include the large Exhibit Hall where pharmaceutical companies, medical suppliers, research and diagnostic companies, and non-profits associated with blood cancers have booths and provide information. The IMF always has a prominent booth, where we will likely find them interviewing MM experts. The Poster Hall contains thousands of 5’ x3’ posters, changed each day, where we can quietly read, think, and absorb new knowledge.  The best abstracts are chosen by the ASH organizing committee for Oral Presentations. These rapid-fire , ten-minute summaries include five-minute Q+A follow-ups. Multiple oral sessions are held simultaneously, so no one person can attend them all. The real highlight for all of us however occurs before ASH officially begins. Friday is Symposium Day, and the IMF session with a panel of world myeloma experts is highly anticipated by attendees. It is always filled to standing-room only.

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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.

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