We thank Celgene for providing an unrestricted educational grant which made possible these updates from Stockholm.
This is a summary of the events of September 1, 1999 at the VII International Workshop.
The VII International Multiple Myeloma Workshop was opened on September 1, 1999 in Stockholm, Sweden, by its Chairman, Professor Hakan Mellstedt. In his opening remarks, Prof. Mellstedt noted the increase in participation between the initial workshop, attended by 40 researchers, and todays event with over 600 attendees. More than 60 speakers have been invited to give presentations on various aspects of multiple myeloma (MM) research, including the pathophysiology of the disease and the current status of conventional and experimental therapies.
The official opening of the workshop was preceded by a symposium on the biological significance of CD20+ cells in MM and the potential role of therapy targeted at these cells. The symposium concluded with a preliminary report on a study of rituxan, an anti-CD20 agent, as an adjunct to a standard regimen of melphalan and prednisone. Rituxin is a monoclonal antibody, which is an agent designed to target cells with specific genetic characteristics, in the case expression of what is called the CD20 antigen (surface marker). Rituxin has been used in treating other B-cell (bone marrow-originated) malignancies, including lymphomas and leukemias, leading to current work to evaluate its potential application to multiple myeloma.
- Dr. Pilarski of the University of Alberta discussed characterisitics of B cells, particularly myeloma cells and how those specific characteristics can be used to design therapies targeting cells with these characteristics.
- Dr. Stephen Treon of the Harvard Medical School presented a paper suggesting that interferon may increase induce more myeloma cells to express the CD20 antigen, making them visible and potentially vulnerable to targeting by rituxan.
- Dr. Hussein of the Cleveland Clinic presented results of preliminary trials showing that rituxin had some activity against myeloma without significant toxicity. These results have prompted the investigators to move forward with further trials designed to evaluate the potential impact of rituxin in improving the response rate to melphalan and prednisone and on survival.
After expressing his appreciation for the contributions of the Workshop organizing committee, international scientific advisory board, sponsors and exhibitors, Prof. Mellstedt introduced Kathy Giusti, president of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and Susie Novis, president of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF).
Both foundations reviewed the grants they had awarded in the past year and called the awardees in attendance to the podium to be recognized by the group. Also particpating in the ceremony was Craig McCarty, founder of the McCarty Cancer Foundation, which funds grants awarded through the MMRF.
The winner of the Jan Waldenstrom Award, named for the pioneer in hematology, was announced by Professor Robert A Kyle. This years winner is Dr. Bart Barlogie of the University of Arkansas Medical School. Dr. Barlogie reviewed the progress of MM treatment from the initial success with VAD multidrug therapy, through the use of high-dose melphalan combined with total body radiation plus bone marrow therapy and interferon maintenance. He also discussed his current research with thalidomide, which has produced dramatic results including long-term, virtually complete remission in a few patients. Dr. Barlogie concluded his lecture with a review of future directions in MM research.