American Society of Hematology, Dec. 6-9, 2008

American Society of Hematology 50th Annual Meeting and Exposition

The American Society of Hematology's 50th Annual Meeting and Exposition took place Dec. 6-9 in San Francisco and attracted about 24,000 attendees from around the world. With 3,000 oral and poster presentations addressing recent advances in basic and clinical research, the meeting covered the entire range of hematology issues from hemostasis and thrombosis to blood and bone-marrow transplantation.

Highlights included the Presidential Symposium, which featured lectures by three leading researchers: Neal S. Young, M.D., of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, who spoke on the pathophysiology of bone marrow failure and how clinical observations have led to a better understanding of the biology of autoimmunity, viral pathogenesis and cancer; Bob Lowenberg, M.D., of the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, who spoke on discoveries of multiple genetic abnormalities in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and how they might lead to individualized therapies; and Nobel Prize winner Peter Agre, M.D., who discussed his research on water channels in red blood cells.

"The first two lectures exemplified something important: that hematology is at the forefront of translational research that can be exported to other fields," said ASH Secretary Armand Keating, M.D., of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. "The work of Dr. Agre is a very good example of that. Water channels are not just expressed in red blood cells. They're also important in kidney function and eye function."

More Information

During a press conference, researchers presented four studies that promise to improve survival in patients with various forms of thrombocytopenia. "We have some very exciting data on novel therapeutic approaches to minimize bleeding episodes in patients with platelet disorders," moderator and ASH President Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., of the University of California in San Diego, said in a statement. "The results of these studies will likely transform the way hematologists treat and manage these conditions, ultimately resulting in improvements in overall patient outcomes such as reducing bruising and unnecessary bleeding that can result if left untreated."

In one of those studies, Francesco Zaja, M.D., of the Clinica Ematologica in Udine, Italy, and colleagues randomly assigned patients with previous untreated idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) to receive either dexamethasone alone or dexamethasone plus rituximab for four weeks. After six months, they found that intention-to-treat and per-protocol sustained response rates were significantly higher in the combination group than in the dexamethasone-only group (63 percent and 85 percent versus 36 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

"This is a study that is likely to change clinical practice," Keating said.

More Information

Another potentially practice-changing study, conducted by researchers from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, showed that older patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes who receive non-myeloablative stem cell transplants have the same outcomes as younger patients. After reviewing 1995-2005 data on 1,116 patients, a team led by Sergio Giralt, M.D., of The University Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas found that patients aged 40-54, 54-59, 60-64, and 65 and older had no significant differences in transplant-related mortality, acute graft-versus-host disease, chronic graft-versus-host disease, leukemia-free survival, and overall survival.

"Although the median age at diagnosis for acute myeloid leukemia is 67, the medical community has been reluctant to consider older patients for transplantation," Keating said. "Because older patients are more likely to have comorbid conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, many physicians believe that transplantation is too toxic for them. This study is likely to change physicians' perceptions about performing reduced-intensity allotransplants -- which require smaller and safer doses of chemotherapy and radiation -- in older patients. It's also likely to change physicians' perceptions at smaller centers that haven't undertaken transplantation of older patients."

More Information

ASH: Intense Treatment Benefits Mantle Cell Lymphoma Patients

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with mantle cell lymphoma, an intensive chemotherapy regimen significantly improves overall survival and failure-free survival, particularly in those aged 65 and younger, according to research presented at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting held Dec. 6 to 9 in San Francisco.

Abstract #833

ASH: Statins Don't Interfere with Rituximab Treatment

TUESDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma or follicular lymphoma, statin use does not decrease the effectiveness of treatment with rituximab, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology held Dec. 6 to 9 in San Francisco.

Abstract #583

ASH: Risk Model Developed for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

TUESDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, a new risk model predicts survival during the entire course of the disease, not just at the time of diagnosis, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology held Dec. 6 to 9 in San Francisco.

Abstract #635

Physician's Briefing