ASH 2020 in a COVID-19 World, A Virtual Experience

John DeFlice |

“We weren’t sure what this coronavirus would do because we’ve never witnessed a pandemic of a coronavirus before. Now we know it’s kind of a super forest fire. It just keeps burning and burning and burning wherever there is human wood.” — Michael T. Osterholm, Phd, MPH

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ASH 2020 shifted to a digital experience in lieu of the regular in-person symposium. It’s nothing short of amazing that we have the capability to coordinate a complex multi-day symposium with the help of digital conferencing technology. At times I completely forgot that I was in the comfort of my home with my loyal dog at my side. As an avid bird watcher I appreciated that I could periodically glance over to my left and see the hungry winter birds at the feeder.

At our group meetings we waited for our host, we joined and studied all of the unique background offerings that people chose. Inevitably the discussions started with pet introductions as participants clumsily hoisted their animals in front of the camera. And soon after the discussions would start you would hear, “I’m sorry you go ahead, no what I was saying, wait you go ahead, no what I way saying”. I also quickly learned the digital conference cardinal sin, overlooking the mute button.

This year’s main topics included treatment of relapsed refractory multiple myeloma with abstracts on CAR-T cell and bispecific T-cell engager therapies. These significant studies were presented at the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) at the start of the meeting. Also on the agenda were case presentations involving patients with high risk smoldering multiple myeloma, approaches to frontline therapy in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients, and managing relapsed refractory disease after several previous therapies.

Out of the more than 600 abstracts on multiple myeloma several were presented orally. One follow up study from ASH 19 included the Griffin study. This study involved the treatment of transplant-eligible newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients with Daratumumab, Revlimid, Velcade and dexamethasone. This was followed up with twelve months of Daratumumab and Revlimid which was compared to follow up with Revlimid alone. These results showed a significant depth of response in the Dara/Rev group. I am sure that we will be hearing more about this study and this was just one example of the many outstanding abstracts that were presented.

I am grateful to the International Myeloma Foundation for the opportunity to attendASH202O. I encourage all of you to watch “The Best of ASH 2020” with Dr. Brian G.M.Durie, Chairman of the Board of the IMF and the IMWG, on Thursday, January 14, 2021. Hopefully, we can get back to an in-person ASH in the next year.

As Dr. Osterholm says “The challenge is, the end isn’t coming soon. But its’s coming. And what we need to do is try to have fewer COVID-19 cases as possible between now and the time a vaccine arrives.”

Till then, mask up and take good care.

John DeFlice

December 10, 2020

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