If I have time, I will report on some important myeloma related presentations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meetings here in Chicago Sunday. But first, I would like to share a some thoughts about a reception I attended Saturday evening at the Field Museum on Chicago’s lakefront.
Hosted by Onyx Pharmaceuticals, the elegant event provided a forum for Onyx’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Anthony (Tony) Coles, to discuss progress the company has made recently on the research front.
The setting in the museum’s main lobby was certainly impressive. Standing before Dr.Coles stood several hundred guests, including the world famous T rex named Sue, a pair of life size African elephants and an enormous model of a blue whale, suspended from the ceiling nearby.
Not surprisingly, carfilzomib, the company’s next-generation selective, epoxyketone proteasome inhibitor, was featured in Dr. Coles presentation, along with another promising solid tumor agent, Nexavar.
I’m not sure the news Dr. Coles shared was as impressive as the setting. But that’s OK! For me, “no news is good news” when it comes to carfilzomib. Sure, results from an important, Phase 2 study, presented Saturday at ASCO, were highlighted. Here are the conclusions from the UAMS myeloma experts who created the study, which included patients who had relapsed and become refractory (resistant) to other myeloma therapies:
In this far advanced patient population, CFZ (carfilzomib), seemed to have single agent activity, especially in combination with other agents, and an improvement in disease was seen in about half the patients.
No surprises here. Peripheral neuropathy data, from this study and others, continues to be encouraging. Great! By all accounts, carfilzomib remains on track to FDA approval soon. See what I mean by “no news is good news?” Onyx’s goal at this point should be: Don’t screw anything up–sort of like a sports team playing with a big lead.
I had a chance to speak with Dr. Coles before and after his presentation. Since this wasn’t a formal interview, I can only share my impressions, which were more than positive.
Dr. Coles was surprisingly approachable. He is a tall, lean, middle aged African American man. I would run a picture, but he must be quite shy. I couldn’t find any available images on Google or the Onyx corporate Website. I will see if I can’t find a picture to share with you later.
Dr. Coles immediately asked about my health. Turns out he reads this site regularly, and was aware of my recent relapse and plans for this summer’s stem cell transplant. I must say I was touched and more than a little impressed.
He also wanted my views on several myeloma related topics. I enjoyed talking shop with Dr. Coles, and I appreciated his taking the time to visit.
One specific point highlighted our conversation. Not one to be shy, I reminded Dr. Coles how a number of my younger, international readers (you know who you are!) have lamented what they view as the recent focus of pharmaceutical companies and physicians to try and turn multiple myeloma into a chronic disease. I specifically referenced a recent column I wrote for The Myeloma Beacon, titled:
“Chronic isn’t good enough!” I said. “These patients and caregivers feel forgotten. They are concerned that no one is looking for a cure anymore.”
Dr. Coles assured me that wasn’t the case. I can’t share specifics from his thoughtfull and positive response. But I will say this:. Dr. Coles truly believes the cure for multiple myeloma may be closer than we might think. He didn’t ask for patience, or use terms like “decade.” He also didn’t imply carfilzomib by itself would be the solution.
What I do know is this man is driven to find answers–and so is his research team. I am pleased to say it looks like carfilzomib’s future is in good hands.
I had been dragging most of the afternoon, still feeling the affects of my third RVD cycle, which concluded earlier in the week. But I must admit my conversation with Dr. Coles–along with the hospitality and support of the Onyx staff–left me walking with a spring in my step as I started my 14 block walk back to my hotel.
Oh yes, I almost forgot to pass-along other multiple myeloma data from Saturday’s ASCO meetings….
That’s just a teaser line, because I have run out of time. I know I’m two days behind on my reporting. But I need to cover Monday’s presentations–and I’m running late.
So off I go. I will update you on highlights from both Saturday and Sunday this evening–promise!
Feel good, keep smiling and stay hopeful… Help is on the way! Pat