The Hematologist

July-August 2013, Volume 10, Issue 4

ASH Adds New Features to Enhance Collaboration and Interaction at the 2013 Annual Meeting

Published on: July 01, 2013

Although it’s mid-summer, it’s not too early to begin planning for the ASH 55th Annual Meeting and Exposition (in New Orleans, LA, December 7-10). For those who have been to the meeting previously, you will notice exciting changes to this year’s agenda. If this is your first meeting, there are programs that have never been offered previously, so your timing is excellent. For instance, the Trainee Day curriculum has been completely redesigned; the Education Program will have a translational component in each session aimed at meeting the needs of practicing clinicians and trainees; and the Scientific Program will offer Special Symposia featuring topics that cut across sub-disciplines of hematology, with the goal of bringing together scientists with overlapping interests who might not otherwise interact. On the logistic front, ASH has in place new strategies to reduce some of the nuisances associated with attending a large meeting in a big convention center, including remote viewing lounges that will allow participants to “attend” popular sessions at designated sites within the convention center and overflow rooms that will provide access to lectures even if the session meeting room is full. Look for enhancements in the popular mobile meeting app and for improvements in information distribution through social network sites.

In Celebration of Wallace H. Coulter

A Special Symposium on Innovation and the Future of Hematology will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Wallace H. Coulter. The Symposium is scheduled for Sunday, December 8, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. As many know, Mr. Coulter developed the method for counting and sizing microscopic particles suspended in fluid. His invention of the Coulter Counter revolutionized the practice of laboratory hematology, and the principles that he elucidated guided development of another indispensible tool of modern hematology – flow cytometry.

This Special Symposium will feature two outstanding translational scientists, both innovative thinkers and engaging speakers, who will discuss how novel concepts and technologies are poised to revolutionize hematology in the future. Stuart H. Orkin, MD, is David G. Nathan Professor of Pediatrics and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School and Chair of the Department of Pediatric Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He will speak on the systems biology of normal blood cell differentiation and discuss how genomics and other new technologies may impact our understanding of hematologic disease pathogenesis and lead to novel therapies. Bruce A. Beutler, MD, holds the Raymond and Ellen Willie Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and also directs UT Southwestern’s Center for Genetics of Host Defense. He received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of Toll-like receptors and characterization of their sentinel role in innate immunity. Dr. Beutler will reflect on how understanding and harnessing the power of the immune system might impact hematology in the future.

We asked the current chair of the Committee on Training Programs and the 2013 co-chairs of the Education and Scientific Programs to give their perspectives on this year’s annual meeting program. Below are their insights.

Training Events

Trainee Day will have an entirely new curriculum. The major emphasis of this year’s program is on support of trainees interested in a career in academic hematology. Didactic sessions will focus on clinical trial design and tools for statistical analysis, while breakout sessions will provide attendees with detailed information on mechanisms of funding, guidance on management of a research team, and insights into career development, including how to locate job opportunities in hematology, how to interview for a position, and how to negotiate a contract. These sessions are intended for both MD and PhD trainees, and the program is diversely populated with speakers from basic science as well as translational and clinical research.

The program for trainees also includes a separate session designed for junior faculty development, titled “Which Grant is Right for Me?” which will inform participants, in detail, about the range of available career-development grants and will provide experienced guidance on how to prepare an application for a mentored award. When resubmitting an application that was not funded initially, the importance of responding appropriately to reviewers’ critiques cannot be over-emphasized. Accordingly, a session devoted specifically to that topic will feature speakers with decades of experience as both applicants and reviewers.

The Career-Development Lunch Program on Saturday, December 7, is the best way to get personal mentoring and career counseling. Tables will be designated for attendees interested in clinical, translational, and basic research as well as in hematopathology, transfusion medicine, and positions in industry. For trainees interested in careers in government, both the FDA and the NIH will be represented at the Career-Development Lunch. Tables are set up to accommodate eight to 10 trainees and will be hosted by a senior ASH member identified because of his/her experience, communication skills, and interest in career development and mentoring. These events are intended for both MD and PhD trainees, with other parts of the program aimed primarily at career development for PhD scientists, including a session entitled “Bridging the Translational Divide: The Role of the PhD.” Several Trainee Didactic Sessions are offered on Sunday. These sessions will include talks on Time Management and Balance, Practical Biostatistics, and Giving a Scientific Presentation. In another session, Dr. Bob Dr. Löwenberg, editor-in-chief of Blood, will generously share his insights with trainees in a presentation on “Successful Manuscript Writing: How to Get Published in a Peer-Reviewed Journal.”

– Gary Schiller, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Access to Sessions

When registering for the annual meeting, trainees must indicate their interest in attending Trainee Day, which takes place on Friday, December 6, but the event is limited to 250 participants. Attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis, and the meeting room will be closed when capacity is reached. For all other trainee sessions, attendees who have a blue badge are eligible to participate at no additional cost.

Education Program

A goal of the Education Program is to ensure that attendees are updated on the most important developments in hematology so that they can deliver state-of-the-art care to their patients and communicate to colleagues and students the progress being made in the field. With this goal in mind, a number of lectures will focus on the newest therapeutics, and a special effort has been made to include a translational component in each of the sessions. In addition, we have added several new Education Program sessions including one on genomics for the practicing hematologist and one on drug development in hematology. Other new sessions are designed to span multiple disciplines. For example, the program includes a session focused on the relationship of infectious agents to the pathogenesis of hematologic malignancies.

The Education Program also includes a variety of new Spotlight Sessions. Each 90-minute session will be presented in a small-venue format for approximately 150 ticketed attendees. Speakers will discuss the topic with ample time reserved for audience questions and participation. The topics range from debates about the place of the newest anti-coagulants in our therapeutic armamentarium, to the implementation of transplantation programs in the developing world, to a session focusing on psychosocial, economic, and therapeutic challenges that are faced by both clinicians and patients who must deal with the life-altering consequences of advanced hematologic malignancies.

The quality of the Education Program depends on excellence of the lecturers. We are particularly enthusiastic about this year’s group of speakers that includes rising young stars whose enthusiasm will complement the experience of our well-established leaders.

– Wendy Stock, MD, The University of Chicago and John Tisdale, MD, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health

Access to Sessions

The Education Spotlight Sessions require tickets. Tickets can be purchased in conjunction with the registration process.

Scientific Program

A cross-section of Scientific Program sessions has been chosen for additional audience interaction with the session speakers in a format called “Continuing Conversations: Strategies to Address the Next Questions.” The program will be organized as a round-table discussion with the session speakers led by the session chair. These sessions will take place during lunchtime on Saturday or Sunday, December 7 or 8, immediately following the corresponding scientific session. The topics of 2013 Continuing Conversations are: Non-Coding RNAs in Normal and Malignant Hematopoiesis, Targeting Apoptosis in Lymphoid Malignancies, Histone Modifications in Normal and Malignant Hematopoiesis, and Platelets and Cancer. Tickets are limited and only available on site on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no additional fee; however, only one ticket per person is allowed.

Based on the success of the Special Scientific Symposium on Epigenetics in Hematopoiesis at the 2012 annual meeting, an updated program featuring this dynamic area of biology and pathobiology will be offered at this year’s meeting. To further increase the breadth of the science presented at the meeting, we have organized additional Special Scientific Symposia featuring international experts in cross-cutting scientific disciplines. These cross-disciplinary symposia are intended to cover topics of interest to more than one of ASH’s scientific constituencies. The topic for this year’s Special Scientific Symposium in non-malignant hematology is “Redox in Hematology.” This topic was chosen because reduction/oxidation chemistry touches many areas of hematology, but it is not often discussed in a way that provides unifying themes that allow for broader understanding among investigators whose interest may be more narrowly focused. This session will feature talks on redox regulation of hemostasis, redox regulation of hematopoiesis, and redox and the vessel wall. The Special Scientific Session in malignant hematology is titled “Approaches for Inhibiting ‘Undruggable’ Targets in Cancer” and features presentations on approaches to therapeutically targeting RAS oncogenes and the p53 tumor suppressor in cancer.

With much enthusiasm we announce the creation of a new Ad-Hoc Scientific Committee on Epigenetics and Genomics, chaired by Ross Levine, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The inaugural program titled “Histone Modifications in Normal and Malignant Hematology” will focus on the role of epigenetic modifications in normal and malignant hematopoiesis, including a review of recently discovered DNA and histone modifications that affect gene expression, self-renewal, and transformation. Epigenetics and genomics are quickly entering the clinical arena, and, accordingly, the scientific committee has chosen topics with translational implications that include examples of how alterations in epigenetic processes contribute to disease pathobiology, and how identification of specific DNA and histone modifications have led to development and validation of novel therapeutics that target epigenetic alterations involved in hematologic malignancies.

For the first time, the Scientific Program will feature four Scientific Spotlight Sessions. Similar to the Education Spotlights, these sessions are intended to focus on areas of special interest and, in some cases, address controversies in hematology. They are ticketed events, the intent being to limit attendance and thereby provide a more intimate environment for discussion. Two non-malignant sessions are planned for this year’s meeting: “Where Are Platelets Made?” and “Hemoglobin and Vascular Pathology.” The two Spotlight sessions dealing with malignant hematology topics are entitled “Status of NOTCH1 as a Therapeutic Target in T-Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemias” and “Epigenetic Mechanisms and DOT1L in MLL-Rearranged Leukemia.”

– Kevin Shannon, MD, University of California – San Francisco, and José López, MD, Puget Sound Blood Center, Seattle, WA

Access to Sessions

The Scientific Spotlight Sessions require tickets. Tickets may be purchased during the online registration process. Access to Continuing Conversations sessions requires a no-charge ticket that will available at the ticketed sessions counter at registration in the Great Hall of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. They will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The four-day annual meeting program will provide attendees with the opportunity to learn about the latest progress in the field and to connect with colleagues and friends within the hematology community. Member registration opens July 24, and housing reservation requests can be made at the same time. The abstract submission deadline is August 14. More information will be posted in the coming months.

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