The Hematologist

November-December 2017, Volume 14, Issue 6

ASH's Research Agenda Gets a Tune-Up

Kenneth C. Anderson, MD Kraft Family Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

Published on: November 01, 2017

A significant aspect of ASH’s influence on hematology/oncology research is building awareness about important current and emerging research topics. This influence is highlighted by the establishment of the ASH Agenda for Hematology Research, which serves as a roadmap for the prioritization of research support of six cross-cutting scientific themes throughout the hematology community. There are also recommendations for dedicated research support from funding agencies and foundations that will equip researchers today and in the future to make truly practice-changing discoveries.

The agenda is updated regularly to reflect current and emerging areas of research priorities. ASH invites the entire hematology community to participate in this process, which is coordinated by the ASH Committee on Scientific Affairs and the 18 scientific committees. Here, I would like to describe the most recent updates to the agenda.

ASH has prioritized precision medicine, and the ASH Task Force on Precision Medicine is charged with identifying strategies to improve the use of genomic/molecular data in clinical care, research, and education. The genomic profiling and chemical biology section of the agenda has been re-named to “precision medicine,” and updated to prioritize 1) specific areas of fundamental research (genomics and epigenetics) that are needed to foster better understanding of a patient’s predisposition to disease and response to therapy; 2) facilitating the integration of genomic and epigenomic profiling into drug discovery efforts, using predictive pre-clinical models; and 3) added emphasis on the importance of secure infrastructure for hosting, sharing, and facilitating genomic data interpretation for clinical trial design and drug development.

To improve upon the state of care for venous thromboembolic disease (VTE), research priorities now should be directed to: 1) evaluate the role of current antithrombotic agents in preventing venous thromboembolism in high risk populations; 2) identify new effective antithrombotic agents that do not cause bleeding; and 3) identify biomarkers for prediction of disease. VTE therefore has been updated to reflect these priorities. With regard to epigenetic mechanisms, the research agenda now has more focus on: 1) targeting malignant histone modifications and 2) developing tools for locus-specific epigenetic reprogramming. Research in the new areas that have been added will enhance the understanding of epigenetic mechanisms and their role as potential targets for the treatment of various hematologic disorders such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and various hematologic cancers.

Lastly, updates to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine reflect the importance of understanding hematopoietic stem cell biology and developing safe and effective stem cell-based therapies. Specific updated priorities are to 1) characterize hematopoietic stem cell biology; 2) develop an artificial and functional hematopoietic stem cell niche that allows expansion of repopulating hematopoietic stem cells; and 3) advance “designer” hematopoietic cell products as well as facilitate their large-scale production for therapeutic and diagnostic use.

The ASH Agenda for Hematology Research serves as a reference to the entire hematology community, and I encourage you to use it as a resource for publications, grant applications, and other efforts. By doing so, you are advocating for bench to bedside research in hematology , thereby ensuring that patients and their families benefit from continued rapid advances in our field. Please visit in late 2017 to read the most current updates.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as president of ASH at this exciting time. In addition to the research priorities, ASH’s new data registry in hematologic disorders and malignancies will serve as an invaluable resource of clinically annotated genomic profiled patient data for research and improved patient care. ASH is also rapidly developing bench-to-bedside translation of immune therapies, perhaps best exemplified by CAR T cells. Expanded quality efforts include treatment guidelines to promote optimal use of novel therapies, while recruitment and retention initiatives will help ensure that the best and brightest choose a hematology career path. ASH’s educational roadmap will adapt multiple innovative approaches for rapid real-world transmission of scientific and clinical advances, to support training the next generation of leaders in hematology research and care. Growing the ASH Foundation’s fundraising efforts enable an increase in the breadth and pace of our progress, and our global initiatives help advances in care reach an ever-increasing population of patients in need around the world.

Finally, I send my heartfelt thanks to the ASH staff and to all of you for the opportunity to lead this wonderful organization. The ASH staff is an amazing team, coupling superb competence with heartfelt commitment to Society goals, and it is an honor and joy to work with them. In a tumultuous and complicated world, ASH stands out as a beacon of hope — together we improve the health and life of our patients and their families, and there is no greater gift than this.

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