American Society of Hematology 2021: Program Highlights

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ONCOLOGY Co-Editor Julie M. Vose, MD, MBA, recaps the 2021 American Society of Hematology Conference and discusses the most important presentations.

The 2021 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Expo (ASH 2021) took place in December in Atlanta, Georgia, and included an in-person event as well as a virtual platform. Presenters and attendees from the United States as well as many international locations were able to participate. Health and safety protocols due to COVID-19 were in place and followed carefully to try to prevent transmission for in-person attendees. Fortunately, the virtual platform made it possible for many other participants from around the world to view and participate in the meeting.

  • Throughout the meeting, a number of prizes and lectures based on the winners’ work were presented, including:
    Wallace H. Coulter Lifetime Achievement Award in Hematology to Harvey F. Lodish, PhD, Professor of Biology and Biomedical Engineering at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for his major contributions and studies on the structure and biogenesis of red blood cells;
  • Ernest Beutler Basic Science Award to Margaret A. Shipp, MD, director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Lymphoma Research Program, for her work on the genetic basis of PD-1-mediated immune evasion in Hodgkin lymphoma and B – primary mediastinal cellular lymphoma; and
  • Ernest Beutler Translational/Clinical Award to Stephen M. Ansell, MD, PhD, President of the Mayo Clinic Lymphoma Group, for his work in understanding the tumor microenvironment in lymphomas, including PD-1 blockade. Many other awards and conferences describing major discoveries in hematology were included at ASH 2021.

There were numerous sessions, roundtables and educational sessions on high interest areas such as COVID-19 and viral effects on patients with hematological or thrombotic conditions, including the reduced ability of some patients to develop an immune response to COVID-19 vaccines. The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion included information sessions on barriers to clinical trial design and enrollment, availability of transplantation for minority patients, race and science, and lessons learned from a global pandemic.

The scientific and poster sessions were very varied in the topics presented. The hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings has, in some ways, been beneficial for presenters in the ability to reach much larger audiences. The plenary session included an introducer for each abstract to discuss the context of the abstract topic. Plenary abstract topics included:

  • SARS-CoV-2 and the pathological mechanism of prothrombotic events caused by the virus;
  • Studies of the molecular landscape of TP53– mutated leukemic transformation in myeloproliferative neoplasms;
  • Primary Analysis of Study ZUMA-7 (NCT03391466): A Randomized Phase 3 Trial Comparing Axicabtagene Ciloleucel (axi-cel) to Standard Therapy in Patients With Relapsed/Refractory Large B-Cell Lymphoma;
  • Efficacy and safety of fitusiran, a therapeutic siRNA, in a multicenter phase 3 study in people with hemophilia A or B, with inhibitors;
  • Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in patients with indefinite clonal hematopoiesis
    potential; and
  • Circulating tumor DNA profiling for noninvasive disease detection, risk stratification, and minimal residual disease surveillance in patients with central nervous system lymphoma.

I hope that over the next few years the world will become a safer place and that we can return to more normal educational and scientific sessions for the American Society of Hematology as well as other hematology meetings and of oncology.

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