February 27, 2009

Live Report from IMW - Day 1: Chief Scientific Officer, Louise Perkins

The biennial International Myeloma Workshop opened today in Washington, DC. This meeting is the 12th such workshop and was originally scheduled to be held in New Delhi. The unfortunate events in Mumbai of late 2008, prompted the organizers to move the meeting to a different city and in just 7 weeks they were able to identify Washington as the new venue. Kudos to Drs. V. Rajkumar, S. Jagannath, N. Munshi and V. Raina for their successful efforts to do so.

This first day of the meeting started with review and discussion of research leading towards an improved understanding of what treatments should be matched to which patient and when. There is a great deal that has already been done to establish risk parameters in the context of the high-dose chemotherapy and transplant. However, as newer drugs come into wider use and are used in different combinations, it is necessary to create fresh perspectives on “risk” that are relevant to those treatments. Why is this important? Here is just one example. Increasing evidence indicates that patients whose myeloma is t(4;14) – historically viewed as denoting “high-risk” - can be effectively treated with the addition of Velcade to treatment regimens. It is important to mention that these studies are not definitive, but the data are encouraging and it seems likely that many other like situations will be found.

Among the highlights for the day were a comprehensive review of the genomic changes seen in patient samples and the possible targets for therapeutic intervention that can be gleaned from those studies. In addition, the MMRC Genomics Initiative findings and data portal were highlighted in three separate presentations by Drs. Kuehl, Bergsagel and Stewart. It was great to see these important data being used and discussed to benefit patients.

Clearly, a great deal of research has and continues to be done to identify new targets and develop new drugs that patients will be able to rely upon should they fail the existing therapeutic approaches.