The Hematologist

January-February 2012, Volume 9, Issue 1

ASH: Continuity and Renewal

Armand Keating, MD

Published on: January 25, 2012

I feel extraordinarily privileged and humbled to address you in this forum. I am really optimistic about the future of hematology! I declare this view despite the challenges facing our field, especially in benign hematology; but, at the same time, I believe that meeting these challenges successfully will be the basis for our continued growth. I am struck both by the vitality of the field and by its diversity, characteristics that are due in large part to the field’s long history of basic and translational research that has led to remarkable advances in clinical medicine that extend well beyond the traditional boundaries of hematology. The natural relationship between laboratory and clinical hematology is one of hematology’s greatest strengths.

But as clinicians and scientists in hematology, we have another huge advantage in meeting the challenges of the future — the American Society of Hematology.

One of the many remarkable things about ASH is its capacity to respond both to the interests and aspirations of its members and to the hematology community at large, while remaining focused on its basic mission of “promoting research, clinical care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology.”

A current example of ASH’s responsiveness is the role of the Society in support of the field of regenerative medicine. Hematologists have been leaders in many cutting-edge areas of medicine, including targeted therapy, clinical genomics, and personalized medicine, but our specialty has had a particularly important role in the development of cell-based therapy. As a result, hematology has an enormous amount to contribute to the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine. After all, hematologists were largely responsible for its precursor, blood and marrow transplantation. Consequently, ASH has been active in promoting research in regenerative medicine. In 2009, ASH held an agenda-setting workshop on regenerative medicine to develop recommendations on measures to enhance research in the area. The proceedings from the workshop were published in 2010 in Blood in an editorial titled “Enhancing Research in Regenerative Medicine.” ASH also adopted a Policy Statement on Regenerative Medicine that both describes the current challenges facing researchers and offers suggestions to advance the field.

Several recommendations from the ASH Policy Statement on Regenerative Medicine were addressed by NIH this year, including the establishment of a trans-institute NIH Intramural Center for Regenerative Medicine and an initiative to create a world-class center of excellence in stem cell technology on the NIH campus. A focus of the stem cell center will be generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). These remarkable cells (that are a testament to the power and beauty of science) are anticipated to have an array of applications ranging from uncovering disease mechanisms to drug testing to cellular therapy. A major goal for the Center for Regenerative Medicine is to use existing NIH expertise in combination with investments in stem cell research to advance translational studies and, ultimately, to develop and initiate cell-based treatment studies at the NIH Clinical Center. According to the recently appointed director, Mahendra Rao, MD, PhD, the center will also serve as a resource for the scientific community, providing stem cells along with supporting protocols and standard operating procedures that can be used by investigators to derive, culture, and differentiate cells. ASH has already met with Dr. Rao to discuss ways in which the Society can support and collaborate with the Center.

With ASH at our side, you can see why I’m confident and excited about the future of hematology.

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