A team from Myeloma Australia visited Atlanta USA in December 2017 as invited guests of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF). This gave us the opportunity to attend the world’s biggest haematology event, and many other meetings and events that were attached to it, as well as meet with myeloma support organisations from all over the world.

The American Society of Hematology held their annual conference in Atlanta from the 9th to the 12th December 2017. Myeloma Australia staff Steve Roach, Hayley Beer, Nella Combe and president Brian Rosengarten attended as guests of the IMF.

The medical and scientific program were jammed packed with myeloma talks and abstracts and we attended many sessions covering a wide variety of myeloma disease and treatment information presented by world renowned clinicians and researchers. Maria V Mateos, Peter Sonneveld and Shaji Kumar presented an interesting session entitled ‘Novel Therapeutics in Myeloma’ covering the role of transplant in an era of more treatments becoming available, tailoring treatments according to the persons level of fitness or frailty, the types of immune therapies currently in trials and the different ways that they work. Another great session was ‘Controversies in myeloma’ presented by Ola Landgren, Faith Davies and Heinz Ludwig discussing topics such as should we treat people with smouldering myeloma, should minimal residual disease (MRD) negativity be the goal of treatment and if so how should it be used in the clinic as well as weather treatment should be fixed or continuous in duration. We also attended abstract presentations on myeloma biology, CAR T cells, MRD, immune therapies and antibiotic prophylaxis to name a few. At the exhibition hall we filled our bags with educational resources for our support nurses and got loads of ideas about how we can improve our resources back home. We watched 3D videos of how the immune therapies work and not surprisingly the best coffee there was made by an Aussie!

Aside from the conference itself, we attended a number of other meetings and events. We met with other myeloma support and advocacy organisations at the ‘Global Myeloma Action Network (GMAN)’ meeting. With representatives from USA, Canada and Europe we discussed global issues such as drug access and costs, awareness and access to reliable information. We began planning our projects and collaborations for the next twelve months with all members of the GMAN group.

On our way to the next meeting, the ‘IMF Satellite Symposium’ snow began to fall in Atlanta, a rare occurrence, especially for December. The theme of the symposium was ‘Getting Clear Answers to Complex Treatment Challenges in Multiple Myeloma’ and the panel consisted of ‘myeloma royalty’ Brian Durie, Phillipe Moreau, Jesus San Miguel, Bruno Paiva and S Vincent Rajkumar. They presented case studies and information on a topic each with interactive live voting and discussion about choices and preferences.

We woke early the next morning for the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) breakfast meeting and Atlanta had been transformed into a winter wonderland. So much snow!

We got to hear abstracts handpicked from the ASH program presented and discussed before the meeting had officially opened as well as the upcoming IMWG projects which include imaging guidelines, renal failure guidelines and bone prophylaxis. We couldn’t resist a walk in the snow to our next meeting which was an inspiring and thought-provoking talk at the Celgene Patient Partners event. The theme was ‘Achieving the extraordinary through imagination and ambition’ and the keynote speaker Brian Reich addressed a room of 100 people from advocacy and support organisations from around the globe. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend in person as his flight had been cancelled due to the snow so he presented via video link the importance of imagination in the work that we do and fostering a work environment that encourages imagination and creativity and focuses on the ‘can’ instead of the ‘cannot’.

In the evening we attended the IMF’s Brian Novis Research Grant reception where we listened to four 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 fundraising events during the year. A researcher from Brisbane, Dr Jacqui McGovern was a recipient for her work developing a humanised animal model to be used in the future to develop new therapeutic strategies in myeloma.

Each of us who attended found the trip to be very beneficial and 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 support groups and seminars throughout the year.

Nella Combe

Manager Nursing & Patient Services


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