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Written by William Donnellan, M.D.

After going virtual last year, the annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting was back in person this past December in Atlanta, Georgia. At the annual ASH meeting, oncologists and researchers from all over the world come together to present the latest and greatest research in the field of blood disorders. In my recent memory the level of research that was presented at the meeting this year exceeded that in years past.

One study led by Dr. Ian Flinn with Tennessee Oncology’s Sarah Cannon Center for Blood Cancers demonstrated that for certain patients with relapsed Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, they did better when treated with a form of immunotherapy known as CAR T-cells as compared to the standard treatment approach that utilizes bone marrow transplantation. This important study was many years in the making and Dr. Flinn was involved from the very beginning.

In the field of multiple myeloma, several studies led by Dr. Jesus Berdeja with the Center for Blood Cancers showed that a different form of immunotherapy called bispecific antibodies could be very effective in patients with multiple myeloma who had relapsed after receiving standard treatments. Based on how impressive the results were, there is hope that one or more of these drugs will be FDA approved soon.

Lastly, for patients with myelodysplastic syndromes and acute leukemia several new drug combinations that were evaluated in studies at the Center for Blood Cancers showed promising results. One study in patients with lower risk myelodysplastic syndrome demonstrated that utilizing a combination of two drugs named eltrombopag and lenalidomide led to many patients’ blood counts improving to the point that they no longer required transfusions.

Following a year hiatus due to the pandemic, seeing the enthusiasm of blood cancer doctors and researchers from around the globe come together in person to present research was invigorating. Furthermore, the pace at which these new therapies are moving brings hope that all patients faced with blood cancer in the future will have great options for treatment.