Pre-ASH Blog: Hybrid Meeting (Virtual for Me), Exciting Updates

Pre-ASH Blog: Hybrid Meeting (Virtual for Me), Exciting Updates

There is no other single conference where so much information is presented about myeloma. Information about so many topics is provided:  how to treat MM patients in various stages; results of phase II & III trials which may indicate upcoming FDA approvals; treatment considerations of MGUS and smoldering MM patients; pre-clinical research focusing on myeloma targets and cell understanding; and more. 

This year, the 63rd American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting will be a “hybrid” meeting (combination of in-person in Atlanta and virtual via Zoom). I’ll be attending virtually which means that some of my meetings will start at 4am CA time (7am in Atlanta).  

I’m so grateful to the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) and their sponsors for registering me to attend, and I look forward to blogging 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. 

I attended my first ASH meeting 16 years ago and found it a bit like being diagnosed with myeloma 27 years ago. The terminology and amount of information was overwhelming. This was not surprising though, since the audience consisted of over 30,000 researchers and oncologists, who were learning the latest updates for all blood cancers, including myeloma.  

I’ve learned to prepare a few weeks ahead of time and have already reviewed many of the myeloma abstracts while creating my personal agenda of talks that I wanted to view. These presentations are typically oral abstracts of clinical trial results, symposiums (case studies and various treatment considerations) and educational programs rather than biological lab studies.   

Meetings I attend have more immediate value to patients undergoing treatment or to the newly diagnosed. By the way, you can also check out the abstracts (a summary of the planned presentations) by visiting www.hematology.org, although numerical details and conclusions of these abstracts are often updated during the actual presentations. 

If you’ve been following new MM treatments the last few years, it’s been mostly focused on immunotherapies (treatments which help your own immune system to fight myeloma). This year’s ASH will have even more about mAb’s (monocloncal antibodies), ADC’s (Antibody Drug Conjugates), BiTEs (Bi-specific T-cell Engagers), and CAR-T therapies. I expect to hear updated trial results for all of these various therapies — in particular, BiTEs and CAR-Ts, and will be sharing this information with you. 

I will be blogging every night during the Dec 10-13 ASH meeting and will be providing my takeaway highlights presented earlier that day. Along with several other patients/support group leaders the IMF brings to ASH, I look forward to sharing our experiences together via blogging and tweeting.  

We hope to keep you well-informed through our individual patient perspectives. Of course, you’ll have other vehicles to learn from about ASH in the weeks to 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. 

Jack Aiello, on Twitter @JackMAiello 

Pre-ASH Blog: The Number of Lily Pads Continue to Increase

Pre-ASH Blog: The Number of Lily Pads Continue to Increase

When I was first diagnosed with myeloma in the Spring of 2010, one of my biggest concerns was the number of approved treatments and who would be doing research on a cancer that affects relatively few people. I quickly learned that there was a very active research scene for myeloma and one of my doctors told me that like frogs on lily pads, I would leap from one treatment to another as needed.  

I’m now on my 4th lily pad and began taking my current treatment regimen of Pomalyst (pomalidomide), Darzalex (daratumumab), and dexamethasone in May 2018. When I started this combination, my specialist told me that patients at his institution had a median of 48 months on this therapy. I’m not sure if that number has changed, but I’ve always wondered if I would be “above average” and surpass the 48-month mark. My previous therapies have not had this length of duration for me. I remain hopeful that in the Spring of 2022, I will surpass 4 years with this treatment and be able to continue with my once monthly visits to the treatment center for a relatively quick visit, thanks to Darzalex Faspro that replaced my infusions with injections in mid-2020.  

At the time of my diagnosis, neither Pomalyst or Darzalex were approved and monoclonal antibodies like Darzalex were gaining traction on the research scene. I attended my first American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference in 2013 and the number of myeloma clinical trials, known as abstracts at ASH, seem to grow each year.  

This year, over 600 abstracts that will be presented. They are presented either orally or as a poster-board display during the conference. The oral presentations tend to be on research that is a little further along than those presented as a poster.  

As a layman listening to the scientific research behind these abstracts, they appear to have become more complex and more refined since I first began attending ASH. By this, I mean that the researchers are looking at more complex combinations and looking at more specific targets on the myeloma cells.  

Researchers continue to seek knowledge to change myeloma treatments — from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more customized approach that will use selected therapies based on your type of myeloma. So instead of just leaping to the next closest lily pad, we can view all the lily pads ahead of us and decide which one will treat our type of myeloma most effectively. 

At this year’s ASH, my interest in monoclonal antibodies continues, along with the larger landscape of treatments available to relapsed and refractory patients like me. I will be reporting on the highlights from these categories and will let you know where you can find more detailed information.  

Many thanks to the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) and pharmaceutical company sponsors who provided the resources for our team to participate in this year’s conference. In many ways, I expect my 2nd virtual ASH to be no different than attending in person.  

It will be filled with full days and some information overload, but I’m excited to learn more and share the new innovations with you. Be sure to check out my blogs and tweets on Twitter throughout the conference! 

Linda Huguelet, on Twitter: @LindaMYELOMA