Michael and I were thrilled to have been invited to the 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in Orlando, Fla., December 4-7, 2010. These are the largest hematological meetings in the world, attended by researchers, hematologists, oncologists, scientists, nurses interested in the most promising research in blood cancers to date.
Knowing that myeloma is 1% of all cancers and considered an "orphan cancer"--and yet seeing thousands of people interested specifically in myeloma -- well, that's not just exciting, it's hope! Hope for OUR futures!
The words that I usually key in on at these types of meetings are:
- Quality of Life - something that just a few years ago was not discussed or factored into a clinical trial. Today, QoL is mentioned in every abstract and is considered an important part of treatment when doctors/patients contemplate treatment options.
- Overall Survival - One of the bottom lines we like to look at in all trials. While Time to Progression (TTP) is important, to me, Overall Survival is a "telling" piece of data.
- Adverse Events - paying close attention to Grade 3 and 4 AEs and what they are.
Let me share with you a quick experience: If you look at Michael's bio/MM history on this site, you can see that in 2002 Michael had an Auto Stem Cell Transplant. After the transplant, the research indicated maintenance of thalidomide. This may have given longer TTP but not OS. So in our opinion, a big deal. Michael's remission MAY be longer if he went on Thalidomide (his TTP may be longer) BUT, may not affect his Overall Survival.
Our thinking at the time was that maintenance on Thalidomide may impact his quality of life with possible neuropathy issues and it would also be "blowing" another treatment option and most importantly may not even matter as far as OS. Remember, Velcade and Revlimid were not yet approved. We decided to wait and watch very closely and to save his options. We hoped that new drugs would be approved (which they were) with fewer side effects and better outcomes.
Today, it's a different story emerging from ASH. The issue of continuous treatment or "maintenance" is one of the most important trends! Specifically with Revlimid, research is showing that treating early and continuing treatment until the disease returns or progresses has an important role in myeloma treatment. All this with a better Quality of Life, too!
The International Myeloma Foundation has started posting webcasts of interviews with key myeloma experts presenting their trials. Check these out and look each day for new ones posted. Listening to these webcasts are better than my reporting statistics to you as you'll get to hear the info direct from the researcher!
Stay tuned for my next post from the ASH, where I'll share with you a serendipitous meeting!