How Do Patients Learn at ASH?

Jack Aiello |

Soon I’ll be off to San Diego, the 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 13 years ago and found it a bit like being diagnosed with myeloma (nearly 24 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. These presentations will typically be on clinical trial results rather than on biological lab studies because these have more immediate value to patients undergoing treatment or to the newly diagnosed.

If you’ve been following new MM treatments the last few years, it’s been all about Immunotherapies and I expect this year’s ASH will have even more about mAbs (monocloncal antibodies), ADCs (Antibody Drug Conjugates), BITEs (Bi-specific T-cell Engagers), and CAR-T therapies.  I’m expecting to hear updated trial results for all of these various therapies, and will pass this information along to you.

My agenda is nearly complete and although ASH officially runs from Sat, December 1 to Tuesday, December 4, I’ll be arriving Thursday, November 29 and plan to attend the BMT CTN (Blood & Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network) Myeloma Intergroup MRD and Immune Profiling meeting that evening.  Since oncologists are already speaking and attending ASH, BMT CTN and groups like SWOG will schedule meetings during the same timeframe. I appreciate learning about new trials and offering a patient’s perspectives at these meetings.

Then Friday, November 30 is designated as Symposium day, with Symposiums scheduled for 3–4 hrs in the morning, afternoon, and evening. For example, 1000 attendees (researchers, clinicians, and pharma) 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.

Finally, ASH begins Sat and runs through Tuesday morning.  And I’ll be blogging every night about 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 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.

Comments are closed.