I’m here at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meetings in San Diego, blogging on behalf of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF).
I have been contributing content and an ongoing commentary for the past three days. I’m not sure what format they are going to use–or when or where my blog posts can be found. Everyone is so busy, I believe that Abbie at the IMF is going to work on the format later this week. I will link you to the IMF posts as soon as they are available.
In the meantime, let me share an excerpt from one of these posts with you now. It is about poster sessions, which are held daily in a large exhibit hall at the convention center:
…I have covered a number of ASH and ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) meetings in the past. By far the least glamorous, yet very important components of the five week event are the poster sessions.
Poster sessions are open daily for peer and media review. Each day, as many as 1000 large posters are mounted on flat bulletin board style backdrops.
The posters are grouped by category. For example, Saturday there was a row filled with nothing but stem cell transplant related research results the length of a football field.
Think that’s a lot? There were three rows of multiple myeloma related posters. That’s almost 100 research studies.
Years of hard work, all summarized on a 3 ft X 5 ft poster. They may not represent the most dramatic advances in hematological research–those are saved for oral presentations in the afternoon and evening sessions.
But the research displayed in the poster exhibit hall are the heart and soul of ASH. There are lots of diamonds in the rough here. You just have to know where to look and what to look for…
I felt that it was important to describe what these poster sessions are like, so I can set the stage for a significant, chance encounter I experienced Sunday in the poster exhibit hall:
It’s Sunday afternoon and time to check-out today’s poster session.
The hall is relatively quiet. There are only a dozen or so clinicians and physicians wondering up and down the poster isles.
I was soon joined by fellow patient and multiple myeloma support group leader, Pat Harwood, from St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Pat has lived an interesting myeloma journey. A dozen years ago, Pat underwent a donor (allo) stem cell transplant. The good news is Pat’s transplant worked for a decade. The bad news is she has been battling graft versus host disease ever since.
More bad news: Pat has relapsed several times during the past three years. Her body is bent and nearly broken. Yet here she is, researching myeloma related advances to share with her support group back home.
Pat is a cheerful person with a wide smile and a knowing sparkle in her eyes. It was a pleasure running into her Sunday.
As we slowly worked our way down the first row of myeloma posters, we noticed a thin, almost frail gentleman systematically examining each poster.
As I drew closer, I could see that the gentleman was Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Robert Kyle, a pioneer in the multiple myeloma treatment field.
Pat recognized him too. Never one to be shy, she walked-up and introduced herself to the good doctor.
I had met Dr. Kyle several times. He helped get me started at Mayo Clinic when I was first diagnosed back in 2007.
Two years later, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Kyle at my first ASH in New Orleans.
We have spoken several times since at IMF receptions and award presentations.
I decided to join the conversation and re-introduce myself.
I had always admired the way Dr. Kyle put patients first. He reinforced that impression today when we spoke briefly in the poster hall. The good doctor mused about how unfortunate it is that patients need to be exposed to therapies that aren’t going to work.
“If 80% of patients are going to respond positively to a therapy, that leaves 20% that won’t respond. Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew ahead of time which patient would respond best to therapy, so we wouldn’t have to expose the others to drugs that don’t work?”
That’s what I love about Dr. Kyle. At this point in his career, he didn’t need to be spending time reading obscure research posters. But here he was, working nearly as hard as he did as a Mayo Clinic resident in 1958.
Dr. Kyle was attentive and positive. He didn’t nervously check his watch or seem impatient to be on his way. And before we parted ways, Dr. Kyle went out of his way to help both of us feel hopeful.
“The new drugs in the pipeline will help keep both of you around for a long time.” he affirmed.
It’s always good to know that you have the optimistic blessing of a living legend… HEY! Now I’ve got that going for me–which is nice.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat