A team from Myeloma Australia visited San Diego USA in December 2018 as invited guests of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF). This gave us the opportunity to attend the world’s largest haematology event, ancillary meetings, as well as meet with myeloma support organisations from across the globe.

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) held their annual conference in San Diego from the 30th to the 4th December 2018. Myeloma Australia staff Steve Roach, Nella Combe, Jo Gardiner and President Brian Rosengarten attended as guests of the IMF.

The ASH medical and scientific program was overflowing with myeloma talks, posters and programs it was impossible to get to every session. There were many oral abstracts and posters on CarT cells and immune therapies, updates on novel therapies, and interesting new findings about the biology of myeloma which may lead to future targets and treatments. I recommend heading over to the IMF website for a great summary of the highlights from Brian Durie at https://www.myeloma.org/videos/best-ash-2018-teleconference

In the poster hall there were close to a thousand abstracts in the myeloma section and it was great to see so many posters from Australian and New Zealand researchers, MSAG members and groups such as Australasian Myeloma Research Consortium (AMaRC) and the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG).

At the ASH exhibition hall, we brought home educational resources for our Myeloma Support Nurses and got loads of ideas for Myeloma Australia projects back home. There were so many things to see and learn in the exhibition hall including a virtual reality experience of the bone microenvironment in myeloma and how new immune therapies engage with myeloma cells.

Aside from the conference itself, we attended several other meetings and events. We met with other myeloma support and advocacy organisations at the Global Myeloma Action Network (GMAN) meeting where there were representatives from twenty countries across North America, South America, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East. Serdar Erdoğan, the new director of GMAN and IMF Europe and Middle East gave a great presentation about patient support and advocacy initiatives in Turkey. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and learn from others and see what works in other countries.  Carer support and programs were also a topic of conversation, not all members have specific carer programs and it was great to hear from the people in Brazil about their carer programs which they run at various times through the year and are for small closed groups of carers and run for 6 sessions over a few months. We also planned our projects and collaborations for the next twelve months with all members of the GMAN group.

This years’ IMF Satellite Symposium theme was ‘New Strategies for Multiple Myeloma Care: Next Steps for the Future’ the audience made up of thousands of doctors and health professionals listening to myeloma experts Brian Durie (USA), Phillipe Moreau (France), Jesus San-Miguel (Spain), Shaji Kumar (USA) and S Vincent Rajkumar (USA) discuss topics such as risk stratification of plasma cell disorders, treating newly diagnosed patients, the role of transplantation, consolidation and maintenance after induction and therapeutic strategies for patients with relapsed/refractory myeloma. Each member of the faculty presented a case study and discussed clinical data that could guide the treatment relating to it. This was an interactive session with voting and discussion about treatment options and choices and a great way to learn more about myeloma and its treatment.

The International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) breakfast meeting was held on the Friday morning before the official opening of the conference where we heard abstracts handpicked from the ASH program as well as current and future IMWG member projects including the role of whole body low dose CT, the role of surgical management for myeloma bone disease of the spine and the natural history of smouldering myeloma to name a few.

On the Saturday evening, we attended the IMF’s Brian D. Novis Research Grant reception where we listened to people share their story living with myeloma. Each story was different and moving, we celebrated together with their support network their achievements and their hope for the future. Several grants were awarded to researchers in the myeloma field from IMF fundraising events during the year. There were two grants awarded to Australian researchers this year. A senior research grant was given to MSAG member Prof Andrew Zannettino from The Myeloma Research Laboratory, Health and Medical Sciences at The University of Adelaide  for his work entitled  ‘Single cell sequencing to discover tumor-associated changes in the bone microenvironment of myeloma patients: identification of prognostic markers and novel therapeutic targets’ and Dr Christian Bryant from The Institute of Haematology – Multiple Myeloma Research Laboratory at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney received a junior award for his work entitled ‘Dissecting the structural and functional heterogeneity of terminal effector CD8+T cells from MGUS and newly diagnosed MM patients in order to identify therapeutic targets and unlock their anti-myeloma potential’.

Each of us who attended found the events to be very motivating and inspiring and extremely beneficial, we gained a lot from the educational opportunities and meeting with other myeloma organisations from around the world. Thank you to the IMF for hosting us and we look forward to sharing information and resources that we brought back at our Information and Support Groups and upcoming seminars across the country.

Nella Combe

Manager Nursing & Patient Services