What’s this event called ASH?

| Jack Aiello

Soon I’ll be off to San Diego, site of this year’s American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference. ASH is all about blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma), and there are nearly 700 oral presentations and posters on myeloma alone. I’m so grateful to the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) and their sponsors for sending me, and I look forward to blogging at night about each day’s highlights. Finally, I’ll create a multi-page summary of the most interesting takeaways from my perspective and share this with my support group, post it on our website, and distribute to anyone else who requests it.

As background, I attended my first ASH meeting 11 years ago and found it a bit like being diagnosed with myeloma (nearly 22 years ago). The terminology and amount of information was overwhelming, not surprising though since the audience consists 20,000 researchers and oncologists, learning the latest updates for blood cancers, including myeloma (MM). I’ve learned to prepare a few weeks ahead of time, creating my personal agenda of talks I want to attend. Because they have more immediate value to patients undergoing treatment or to the newly diagnosed, I will attend presentations focused on clinical trial results rather than those on biological lab studies.

Officially, ASH runs from Sat, December 3 to Tuesday, December 6. Each day consists of the following:

Oral Presentations: More than 100 Abstracts are designated for oral presentations, typically 10 minutes of slides and 5 minutes Q&A. Unfortunately, there are simultaneous presentations so no one can attend everything, even for just a single disease like MM. That’s the reason I work out my agenda before arriving at ASH. While many of the oral presentations discuss MM biology and possible future MM molecular targets, my focus will be on presentations that may affect near-term myeloma treatment options. For example, this year these will include: 1) potential new drugs like Venetoclax and Selinexor; 2) transplant updates; 3) CAR-T therapies and checkpoint inhibitors; and 4) studies with daratumumab, the “hottest” of the four drugs approved in 2015.

Posters Hall: Each day over a 1000 new 5′ x 3′ posters display research projects from selected abstracts with details of Background, Method, Patient Demographics (could be Mouse Models), Results of Responses & Adverse Side Effects, and Conclusions.

Exhibit Hall: Analogous to a trade show in Silicon Valley (my home) where pharmaceutical companies (nearly 300), medical suppliers, research & diagnostic companies, non-profits, and publications involved with blood cancers have a booth and provide product information. The IMF has a booth where they interview MM experts for subsequent posting on their website.

Friday, Dec. 2nd is designated as Symposium day, with symposia scheduled for 3–4 hrs in the morning, afternoon, and evening. For example, a 1000 attendees will be at the IMF Symposium Friday afternoon led by a panel of myeloma experts discussing various MM issues. Even though answers in these sessions cannot include information yet-to-be-released at ASH, it’s always fascinating to see how MM experts have different opinions/recommendations to handle various patient case studies or how they pose questions for which there’s no definite answer yet . . . welcome to the world of myeloma.

Along with several other patients/support group leaders the IMF brought to ASH, I look forward to sharing our experiences together via blogging and tweeting. We hope to keep you well informed from our individual patient perspectives. Of course, you’ll have other vehicles to learn about ASH in the weeks that follow, including webinars, telephone conferences, seminars, and more. Maybe your own oncologist will be at ASH. Take advantage of these resources and become your own best patient advocate.

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Jack Aiello

Diagnosed with myeloma in 1995, Jack is strong proponent of patients participating in clinical trials so that, in the future, myeloma and other cancers will be known as curable diseases. He is a proud facilitator of the San Francisco Bay Area Myeloma Support Group.

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