As I tried to make myself comfy on the transatlantic flight home last night, I started to reflect on the last four days of the planet's largest meeting dedicated to haematological malignancies - ASH - which this year was held in San Diego, and a mighty fine choice of venue it was. Most of the hotels were within walking distance and the weather was ideal - 20°C and blue skies, and this was the middle of winter. The meeting was very well attended by both industry and delegates - it is probably the second most popular 'cancer' meeting after ASCO.
I must say, I thought the data were a bit light compared with previous years which saw a lot of breaking data presented in myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and lymphoma. There were some notable exceptions however.
It seems to me that immunotherapy will become a real option in blood cancers, but probably more in the form of the CAR-Ts. It must be said that although there are truly remarkable response rates in some of the trials (in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia), the toxicities will really need to be addressed. The cytokine release syndrome is considerable with a number of deaths reported, but I do believe we will rapidly learn how to use these drugs. Whilst we were at the meeting, the licence of the first ever anti PD-1 in a haematological malignancy (Hodgkin lymphoma) was announced, so it seems that we are finding our way in immunotherapy for haematological cancers.
Away from immunotherapy, we heard about GALLIUM phase III trial from Roche showing obinutuzumab superiority over long-time favourite rituximab in follicular lymphoma, bosutinib having progression-free survival superiority over imatinib in chronic myeloid leukaemia, some early clinical trial read outs in acute myeloid leukaemia from AbbVie and Seattle Genetics, and the latest updates from the Pollux and Castor trials with daratumumab combinations in myeloma.
ASH is also a meeting which has more parallel and training sessions than anywhere else and a whole educational satellite programme on day one, which was very well attended. Mind you, after three hours of myeloma and two hours of myelodysplastic syndrome I was pretty frazzled!
Whilst the data might have been modest, the networking was fierce and this meeting, like ASCO, has become the place for pharma, clinicians, patient organisations, vendors, collaborator groups, charities, and many more to meet, discuss and collaborate over coffees and lunches. The meeting plays such an important part in advancing the understanding we have of the diseases and their treatments and I look forward to being part of it again next year.
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