December 13, 2017

The ASH conference in Atlanta in December, 2017, was so interesting and overwhelming. From the IMF Satellite Symposium on Friday afternoon to the panel on Monday evening, there was so much to absorb about the advancing research and new treatments in myeloma. The abstract presentations came at us with a scheduled pace of one every 15 minutes. The slides showed details about the background and objectives of the studies, the cohorts included, why some dropped out, how they were divided, how the treatment was scheduled and administered, the number and grades of side effects, comparisons of outcomes between the groups, and conclusions based on those outcomes. A lot to cram into 15 minutes and allow for questions!

I felt fortunate to be there among so many knowledgeable professionals. I knew that I could not absorb all the details, but hearing the general tone and direction of the discussions was so valuable. Although there was so much data presented, I would like to convey my personal interpretation of what I saw. I have been involved with myeloma support groups and learning about this disease for 19 years. My last trip to ASH was five years ago, and the research has become much more complex since then. This is good news for patients since the tools are getting more powerful and changing the course of treatment. Years ago, there were only a few options, and they were generally more toxic. Now, the tools are revealing what is going on inside the myeloma cell, the genetic profile of that cell, and even what is on the surface of the cell.

The abstract programs from the researchers represented great work from teams around the world in a wide variety of treatments. There was so much information that is will take time for me to filter out the highlights that would be of interest to the support groups. It is also important that I interpret the research in a way that it is meaningful to the patients and caregivers. I enjoyed the panel discussions at the IMF Satellite Symposium and the IMWG Live Conference Series at the end of ASH. These programs featured doctors discussing what each of them thought about the latest research. On the panels, the doctors were trying to convey to each other their interpretation of the research that they thought was most valuable as well as what was significant about the latest advances. While they talked, it was as if we were eavesdropping on their conversations. We could capture some of the points to use when we talk with patients at support groups to help them understand the excitement at ASH. I will go back, replay the discussions on the IMF website, and listen to doctor’s talk about what caught their attention at ASH.

Of course, the best experience at ASH was the team of support group leaders that were there with me. We were helping each other with logistics and we spent every spare minute discussing and interpreting what we saw and heard. Many thanks to the IMF, the sponsors, and Robin Tuohy for bringing us to ASH and helping us to get the most out of that exciting event. Happy Holidays!!

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