I had some extra time this morning to reflect on this year's ASH while sitting at the Atlanta airport, waiting to board my flight back to Tampa.
I have the extra time because for once, everything went right this morning on the way to the airport. The normally impossible rush hour traffic parted for my cab like the Red Sea. I don't know if you have ever flown through Atlanta, but security here is the worst!
The lines are so long, they even run narrow cattle lines out into the shopping area atrium. But not today. Today I walked right past the zig-zagging security maze, around two corners and down the normally packed bottle-neck leading to the screening area.
It's a miracle! I made it through security and out to my gate in record time. Ever notice how that NEVER happens when you are in a hurry?
This morning I shared a cab on the way to the airport with my good friend, Cindy. Cindy's Twitter handle is @MyelomaTeacher. She actually won an award as one of the five favorite Tweeters at ASH. People were coming up to her because they recognized Cindy's picture from their Twitter feed!
Like me, Cindy is a myeloma support group leader, here to help the IMF get the word-out to patients and caregivers about this year's meetings. After all, an informed patient is a safe, longer lived patient!
We hugged and said good by, I grabbed something for breakfast and settled-in to write.
Yesterday I attended oral presentations featuring data about a dozen new drugs or drug combinations. I read abstracts about a dozen more. And all look promising.
The way I see it, you can look at this year's ASH two ways. First, you can play the odds. Something good is bound to develop when so many researchers are working so hard on so many different myeloma therapies. This is sort of the, "Throw enough at the wall and something will stick." approach.
Playing the odds. There must be a genuine breakthrough drug hidden among all of that research, right?
Maybe. OK, probably. I'm leaving ASH hopeful and energized!
But a myeloma patient who's running out of options--or a battle tested and cynical myeloma patient/writer like me--could spin all of this a different way.
Saturday on my daily blog I wrote about a presentation I attended featuring one of Mayo Clinic's best and brightest, Dr. Vincent Rajkumar. Dr. Rajkumar is traveling down a myeloma therapy road less traveled. In a time when most myeloma docs believe hitting myeloma hard up-front, Dr. Rajkumar is still willing to consider a less toxic incremental approach.
I was surprised to learn that Dr. Rajkumar, and many of his collegues, still prescribe the simple combination of Revlimid and dexamethasone for low-risk (also often referred to as standard-risk) newly diagnosed patients.
That's the same induction regimen that I was prescribed when I visited Mayo Clinic almost six years ago. How is that possible? All of these new drugs and nothing has changed after six years?
See what I mean? The myeloma world is full of promise. Kyprolis has just been approved, and pomalidomide (Actimid) should soon follow--with a dozen other assisting, combination therapies waiting in the wings.
Great! I saw a lot of progress being made this year at ASH. Baby steps on the way to adding a half dozen or more drugs to our specialists' arsenal in the next year or two.
But that said, the more things change the more they stay the same! Patients are still being pushed to transplant, and the wide gap between the practical and theoretical won't budge.
That's one reason that we were all here this weekend. To help doctors and researchers remember that behind all of the charts and graphs and abstracts are real patients--and to give the theoretical a nudge.
Feel good and keep smiling!