As we move into the holiday season, we are all looking forward to time with family and friends to enjoy, celebrate, and relax after a tumultuous year. This year was extraordinarily busy for the IMF, but in 2019 there were great steps forward to improve outcomes for myeloma patients everywhere. In last week’s blog, I summarized all the amazing details from the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). Those included the high expectations for the new immune therapies—CAR T-cell treatment, the new GlaxoSmithKline monoclonal antibody/drug conjugate, and bispecific antibodies that engage patients’ own T cells to fight myeloma.
The deep responses achieved by these treatments in patients with advanced disease will undoubtedly contribute greatly to improved outcomes as we move into 2020.
The 30th anniversary of the IMF
As we move into 2020, there is also a special celebration for the IMF: the 30th anniversary of the organization’s founding. In 1990, the first Clinical Conference for myeloma was held in Phoenix, Arizona. And so began the global efforts to educate, support, and advocate for patients, and to search for both prevention of and a cure for myeloma. Over the years, the IMF has achieved many goals, and during 2020 we will be remembering the founding ideas as first laid out, the specific achievements, and the deeply heartfelt moments over the three consequential decades.
IMF milestones include creating the first Patient and Family Seminar and the launch of myeloma support groups, now established across the U.S. and around the world. The creation of the IMF’s International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) brings global myeloma leaders together to collaborate on research and create treatment management guidelines. The Nurse Leadership Board (NLB) has brought myeloma-specialist nurses together. The IMF has convened regional groups of myeloma experts to collaborate in Asia through the Asian Myeloma Network (AMN) and in Latin America through the IMF Latin America. An IMF team advocates for myeloma patients in Washington D.C. The IMF has been proud to be a part of the research and development and approval process for over 10 new drugs that have transformed the outcomes for myeloma patients.
IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative
The last decade has seen the establishment of our Black Swan Research Initiative (BSRI). This exciting project brings together research teams from around the world in search of treatments to cure myeloma and prevent the development of myeloma in the first place. To speed the process, the IMF has created a Global Technology Platform. This enables researchers to share technological advances in the field in order to enrich the translational research process.
Moving into 2020, we anticipate the results from the IMF-supported iStopMM project in Iceland, where we are understanding the early stages of the disease, MGUS and smoldering myeloma, and will have an opportunity to prevent the onset of active myeloma.
In the year ahead we will also provide updates on the BSRI-supported CURE trials. Already, with three years of follow-up in the CESAR trial reported at ASH 2019, 62% of patients have achieved deep, deep responses and are MRD negative at 10-to-the-minus-6 level (zero out of a million bone marrow cells). Time will tell how many are cured.
Recognition of the IMF
This year saw the global recognition of the IMF. The University of Brussels awarded IMF President and CEO Susie Durie and me a joint Honorary Doctorate of Medicine in recognition of the work that has had a global impact for myeloma patients. We were humbled by this award, which we accepted on behalf of the entire myeloma community, now actively engaged in the search for best outcomes for patients.
I wish you a relaxing and wonderful time with family and friends, and invite you to join the IMF in moving forward with renewed energy, resilience, and focus in 2020.
Dr. Brian G.M. Durie founded and now serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.