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American Society of Hematology's 49th Annual Meeting and Exposition, Dec. 9-12, 2007

The American Society of Hematology 49th Annual Meeting and Exposition

The American Society of Hematology 49th Annual Meeting and Exposition took place Dec. 9-12 in Atlanta and attracted about 20,000 attendees from around the world. Topics included advances in individualized medicine, new treatments for disorders such as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, the development of Janus kinase-2 (JAK-2) inhibitors, and the continuing controversy over the use of erythropoietin.

"There were a large number of presentations and some major research breakthroughs, all of which involve significant progress in the area of personalized or individualized medicine as it relates to blood diseases," said the society's president, Andrew Shafer, M.D., of the Weill-Cornell Medical College at Cornell University in New York City. Basic research into "super-markers" for malignancies has allowed for more accurate diagnoses in individual patients, Shafer said. It also can help predict which seemingly healthy patients are most likely to develop certain malignancies.

As an example, Shafer cited a study from the Mayo Clinic showing that a specific molecular signature -- activation of the MYC pathway -- may explain why some patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (a usually benign abnormality) go on to develop multiple myeloma.

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Radek C. Skoda, M.D., of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, delivered the annual Ham-Wasserman Lecture on the molecular basis of myeloproliferative disorders, including activating mutations in the JAK-2 gene.

"Drug companies are starting to design JAK-2 inhibitors," said Mitchell J. Weiss, M.D., of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, co-chair of the scientific program committee. "Some abstracts presented at the meeting show that these drugs are starting to be used in clinical trials and that they work."

Other important research addressed the use of iron chelators -- including the new drug Exjade, which is in clinical use -- in the treatment of thalassemia. "Some abstracts showed that if you administer two iron chelators, you can improve iron overload toxicity, particularly in thalassemia patients who have been multiply transfused," Weiss said.

One late-breaking abstract, presented by researchers from the General Hospital of Corinth, Greece, showed that a combination of desferrioxamine and deferiprone (a drug not approved for use in the United States) improved survival and reversed secondary iron overload in thalassemia patients.

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One of the meeting's most controversial topics concerned recombinant human erythropoietin, which is used to reduce transfusion requirement in chemotherapy, Weiss said. "Several studies suggested that cancer patients who receive erythropoietin have a higher risk of death, but it's not for one reason. So people are arguing if these observations are real. This drug has been on the market for 15 to 20 years and there was minimal perceived downside."

In one such study, researchers from the Theagenion Cancer Center in Thessaloniki, Greece, showed that median survival of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients who received erythropoietin was significantly shorter than in those who did not (22 months versus 40 months).

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ASH: Cutting-Edge Treatments Benefit Leukemia Patients

TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Recent advances in treatment may extend survival in patients with acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and chronic-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia, according to several research studies presented this week at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta.

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ASH: Advances in Bone Marrow, Stem Cell Transplant

MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Advances in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation may improve survival in younger and older patients, according to several research studies presented this week at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta.

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ASH: New Therapies Improving Lymphoma Outcomes

MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rare and difficult-to-treat blood cancers may have new hope for either a cure or progression-free survival, according to several research studies presented this week at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta.

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ASH: Researchers Target Bleeding, Clotting Disorders

MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- New management approaches may help the millions of patients affected by a wide range of bleeding and clotting disorders, according to several research studies presented this week at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta.

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