American Society of Hematology

Improving the Use of Immunotherapies for Hematologic Diseases

The field of immunology has generated novel immune-based strategies and improved the utility of existing treatment options for various hematologic diseases. As such, ASH has had an enduring interest in improving immunotherapies for all hematologic diseases. This is evident in the Society’s programs and activities supporting this research priority and in the creation of a dedicated Task Force on Immunotherapies to address specific scientific and clinical issues related to this area of precision medicine, specifically as it applies to hematology.

The Society's efforts can be categorized in the following key themes:

Immunotherapy is one of the priorities in the ASH Agenda for Hematology Research, an important resource that informs various ASH programs and activities, including sessions at the annual meeting, regional scientific meetings, and workshops, as well as ASH’s registry efforts. By creating opportunities for discussion around the latest cutting-edge science in immunotherapy and fostering networking and collaboration among diverse stakeholders, ASH is able to develop strategic priorities to advance its mission of conquering blood disorders.

The following are examples of immunotherapy-related ASH programs.

ASH Annual Meeting Scientific Content

Annual Meeting Scientific Session

Each year, the ASH annual meeting provides a valuable educational experience and the opportunity to review thousands of scientific abstracts highlighting updates in the hottest topics in hematology. The following are examples of sessions that covered immunotherapy at the 2017 meeting:

  • ASH Friday Scientific Workshop on Immunotherapy in Lymphoid Malignancies
  • Advances in Cellular Immunotherapy for Lymphoid Malignancies
  • Targeting T-Cell Exhaustion
  • Clinical Translation of Pluripotent Cell-Derived Off-the-Shelf Natural Killer Cell Cancer Immunotherapy
  • Inhibiting TGFβ Signaling in CAR T-Cells May Significantly Enhance Efficacy of Tumor Immunotherapy

For a comprehensive overview of 2017 ASH Annual Meeting sessions that covered immunotherapy, click here.

ASH Regional Scientific Meetings and Workshops

ASH is committed to providing a forum aimed at delivering invaluable scientific content around the emerging area of immunotherapy. The Society does so through its various regional scientific meetings including:

ASH Research Registry Efforts

Leveraging its strengths as a trusted convener, ASH hopes to harness the power of big data to conquer blood diseases worldwide. Through its research registry, ASH will initiate a shared information resource to advance collaborative hematologic research around the globe. This approach will help enhance knowledge by supporting new discoveries and will facilitate the development of novel approaches (including immunotherapy) for the treatment of patients with blood disorders.

The increased use of immune-based therapies creates a need for educational materials that will provide scientists with the skills needed to develop these therapies and equip medical practitioners with the knowledge necessary to effectively treat patients with these therapies.

ASH offers a wide array of educational products and services on the topic of immunotherapy for clinicians and scientists at different stages of their careers. The following are examples of educational sessions at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting:

  • Identification and Management of Toxicities Induced by Immunotherapies
  • The Expanding Role of Immunotherapy in Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • ASH-FDA Joint Symposium on New Drug Approvals in Acute Lymphoid Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

For a comprehensive overview of sessions that covered immunotherapy at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting, click here.

In addition, the Society is exploring the development of other informational tools and resources to further address this need for the both the hematology community and the broader medical field. Additional resources will be added here as they are developed.

ASH supports this important priority by advocating for sustained research funding, influencing policy, and guiding federal regulations to improve access to immunotherapies.

Examples of ASH’s advocacy efforts in this area include:

  • Recommendations to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The NCI recently released several funding opportunities that align with ASH’s recommendations.
  • A response to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ request for information on "The Need for and Support of Research Resources for the Biomedical Research Community,” including several recommendations on topics related to immunotherapy.
  • Development of an advocacy video describing immunotherapy as an important ASH research priority.
  • Exploring ways in which the Society could address costs and reimbursement challenges related to immunotherapy.
    • On June 15, 2018, ASH submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on the National Coverage Analysis for Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy for Cancers. ASH recommended that CMS not proceed with a National Coverage Determination (NCD) at this time because CAR T-cell therapy is an evolving area of medicine; and with over 400 clinical trials in process, it is impossible to know what the ultimate applications of this therapy will be. Additionally, the Society is concerned that an NCD that restricts coverage for certain conditions has the potential to limit access to a life-saving therapy for patients. Lastly, ASH stressed that it is premature to issue an NCD, which many stakeholders agree will need to be reopened as new therapies and indications are approved, potentially as soon as 2019. Read the full letter.
  • Strengthening and building new relationships with biopharmaceutical and life sciences companies that have an interest in immunotherapy.

Enhancing Physician and Patient Access to Clinical Trials

With the expansion of new agents and therapies used to treat hematologic malignancies, there is an increasing demand from physicians and patients to find appropriate clinical trials. Among the barriers to participation in clinical trials, cited by both physicians and patients, are poor information infrastructure and the difficulties of navigating public trial databases. To relieve this burden, ASH is exploring the development of a resource that will foster patient access to clinical trials, facilitate rapid dissemination of clinical trial information to physicians, and ultimately increase patient enrollment into trials. Please check back soon on more information about this effort.

Through various ASH publications and activities, the Society is able to disseminate scientific, clinical, and educational content on immunotherapy to the hematology community and to other medical subspecialties.

Examples of some of this content include:

ASH Task Force on Immunotherapies

Co-Chairs:

  • Sophie Paczesny, MD, Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Steven Pavletic, MD, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

Members:

  • Catherine Bollard, MD, Children’s National Health System
  • Rodrigo Calado, MD, PhD, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Cynthia Dunbar, MD, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
  • Sergio Giralt, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Jennifer Holter-Chakrabarty, MD, University of Oklahoma
  • James Kochenderfer, MD, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Jeffrey S. Miller, MD, University of Minnesota
  • Marcelo Pasquini, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Miguel Perales, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Katayoun Rezvani, MD, MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Bipin Savani, MD, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Questions?

For additional information about ASH’s immunotherapy activities, please contact ashprecisionmedicine@hematology.org.

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