The Hematologist

November-December 2018, Volume 15, Issue 6

ASH: A Year in Review

Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH Sarah and A. Watson Armour Chair in Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, Hematology Section Head; Professor of Pediatrics
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

Published on: October 30, 2018

As I begin my final President’s Column, I am reminded of my predecessor Dr. Kenneth Anderson’s assessment that a key part of ASH’s influence on hematology/oncology research lies in building awareness about important current and emerging topics. Throughout the course of 2018, the Society has continued to enhance that awareness — through our support for research and education; via initiatives to better capture, share, and use data; and in taking steps to confront some of the most vexing clinical and scientific challenges. And at the upcoming annual meeting in San Diego, attendees will find an amazing array of sessions showcasing ASH initiatives as well as the extraordinary cutting-edge advances for clinicians and scientists alike.

Recognizing the impact of venous thromboembolism (VTE) across the entire range of medicine, ASH has garnered its resources to convene panels of VTE experts to develop a comprehensive series of clinical practice guidelines using rigorous methodology. I am thrilled that the first six of the 10 total guidelines will be published near the end of this month in Blood Advances, allowing ASH to create additional resources not only for hematologists and other health care professionals, but also for at-risk populations, administrators, and other key audiences to raise awareness about this underappreciated threat. You can learn more about this endeavor at the annual meeting during a Special Education Session on ASH Clinical Practice Guidelines on Venous Thromboembolism (Monday, December 3, 2:45 – 4:15 p.m.), or online.

ASH is also in the process of developing five new clinical practice guidelines on the management of acute and chronic complications of sickle cell disease (SCD). These guidelines will address pain, cerebrovascular disease, cardiopulmonary and kidney disease, stem cell transplantation, and transfusion support, with a public comment period on the draft recommendations this fall and anticipated publication dates in 2019. This is just one of many ASH efforts to promote new and successful treatments for people living with SCD. In September, ASH announced the formation of a clinical trials network, the mandate of which will be to connect clinical trial sponsors with research sites, move the needle on patient recruitment, and advance clinical trial efficiency. At its core will be a research data registry that will provide a critical foundation for patient data storage, access, and analysis to support clinical trial research. ASH collaborated with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a joint clinical endpoints workshop in October to bring together SCD experts, researchers, biopharmaceutical companies, and patients to explore ways to further accelerate clinical trials that will hopefully lead to more new drug approvals. Lastly on the SCD front, this has been a big year for our advocacy efforts for SCD legislation on Capitol Hill — legislation that, as of this writing, was just approved by the Senate and will hopefully move forward for approval by the U.S. House of Representatives. And the spirit of advocacy does not stop at our doorstep, as ASH begins work toward improving newborn screening in sub-Saharan Africa. By being “the change we want to see in the world,” we cement our leadership role while bringing about results that touch patient lives in the here and now. To learn more about these initiatives, visit the kiosk in ASH Central (Sails Pavilion, San Diego Convention Center) in San Diego.

Finally, I would like to present some updates on the growth of our efforts to acknowledge and support hematologists throughout all career stages via our awards programs. Funded by the ASH Foundation, our newest award, the ASH Global Research Award, is representative of the Society’s efforts to become a more global entity and to realize a hematology research workforce that is diverse across many facets. The 2018-2019 cohort hails from seven nations, and the eight scientists chosen are focused on projects related to CAR T cells, stroke prevention in SCD, and other areas.

I am immensely honored to have served as president of ASH during a time of such tremendous progress. Collectively, we have a great deal to be proud of. I consider the initiatives discussed here and in my other columns to be more than a collection of mile markers or goal posts. They are a window into the almost limitless capacity of the hematology community, stopping at nothing to conquer blood diseases. Thank you for your work and dedication, and I look forward to seeing you in San Diego in a few weeks!

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