Earlier this month, a team from Myeloma Australia visited Orlando, Florida in the USA for the annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference 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 Orlando, Florida from the 7th to the 10th of December 2019. Myeloma Australia staff Steve Roach, Nella Combe and President Brian Rosengarten attended as guests of the IMF.

At the ASH conference, the medical and scientific program was overflowing with myeloma talks, posters and educational sessions it was impossible to get to everything.

In the poster hall there were rows and rows of poster abstracts in the myeloma section and it was great to see so many from Australian and New Zealand clinicians and researchers, MSAG members and groups such as Australasian Myeloma Research Consortium (AMaRC) and the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG). There were pages of notes taken and resources to review, given the volume of information that we gathered an entire blog in the new year presenting some of the highlights from the program will be posted.

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 and it was great to spend some time with the IMF on their stand and learn about their new resources and online and digital services.

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 countries across North America, South America, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and learn from others and see what programs and initiatives are effective in other countries.  There is a pilot program launching next year in Europe for organisations to learn more about clinical trials and good clinical practice training. This hopes to enable small organisations to work more effectively with hospitals and clinicians to increase the number of myeloma clinical trials in their countries. There is a project working on developing a digital platform for GMAN members to share resources and information about clinical trials, drug access and member activity.  Future projects were planned and we are involved in the program for the Summit to be held in Frankfurt mid next year. In addition, we met with the Myeloma UK team members Dr Ira Laketic-Ljubojevic (Director of Healthcare Advocacy Services) and Sarah McDonald (Director of Research). We shared updates on our respective organisational activities and challenges and discussed potential areas of collaboration.

This years’ IMF Satellite Symposium theme was ‘Therapeutic Approaches That Achieve the Best Possible Outcomes in Myeloma Care’ the audience made up of thousands of doctors and health professionals listening to myeloma experts Brian Durie (USA), Phillipe Moreau (France), Thomas Martin (USA), Shaji Kumar (USA) and S Vincent Rajkumar (USA) discuss the following topics:

  • Diagnosis and risk stratification of MGUS and myeloma
  • Evolution of upfront therapy for the non-transplant group
  • Upfront therapy for the transplant-eligible group
  • Current therapeutic landscape for relapsed or refractory myeloma
  • Future directions and promising treatments
  • Presentation of the updated treatment algorithms

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.

On the Saturday evening, we attended the IMF’s Brian D. Novis Research Grant reception where we listened to people share their experiences living with myeloma. Each story was different and moving, we celebrated together with their support network, their achievements and their hopes for the future. Several grants were awarded to researchers in the myeloma field from IMF fundraising events during the year.

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