1. Bacala, Toni Marie

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Hematologists across the globe are bracing for the next practice-changing updates at the 59th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) held Dec. 9-12, 2017, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The meeting's lineup promises an illuminating preview of advances in precision medicine, as well as extensive educational and networking opportunities for professionals specializing in malignant or non-malignant hematology.

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"Genomics and immunology will be the two cross-cutting themes we'll be seeing a lot of this year at the annual meeting," shared ASH President Kenneth C. Anderson, MD. "We are exploring how to take revolutionary treatments from bench to bedside, and hope to see ongoing progress of these treatments in the coming years."


Leading in with a growing excitement over genome editing, the meeting will further explore the latest laboratory applications, therapeutic prospects, and regulatory considerations for this groundbreaking technology.


"We recently revised the ASH Agenda for Hematology Research, a living document outlining what we believe are the most promising areas of hematology research, and precision medicine rose to the top. It is a huge area of emphasis for ASH," Anderson noted.


This year's new programming will also focus on the development of immunotherapies for hematologic malignancies, patient selection practices, management of toxicities, and practical considerations for using immunotherapies in clinical practice.


Considered to be the most comprehensive hematology event, the annual meeting recognizes hematologists and initiatives that have made a difference in the field. New this year is the Global Capacity-Building Showcase, a poster category that will showcase research and capacity-building initiatives in lower- and middle-income countries.


Biotech and pharmaceutical companies are also anticipated to make the headlines with announcements of new clinical results and upcoming projects at the event.


ASH is co-sponsoring two sessions with the FDA on newly approved drugs. "The FDA expects that 6-8 drugs with practice-changing effects on the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma will be approved in time for the ASH annual meeting," explained Anderson. "Speakers will discuss their safety, efficacy, and real-world use."


Joint Symposium & Plenary Sessions

With the success of last year's first joint symposium with the European Hematology Association (EHA), this year's meeting features another ASH-EHA collaboration. The joint session, "Clinical Significance of Clonal Hematopoiesis," includes speakers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, U.K., who will share clinical updates on somatic mutations in hematopoietic cells and clonal expansion.


"Recent studies have shown that presence of clonal hematopoiesis increases with age and correlates, not only with the development of hematologic disorders and cancers, but also autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases," said Anderson on the significance of the Joint Session's topic. "Ongoing efforts are, therefore, delineating clonal hematopoiesis in otherwise asymptomatic individuals, and defining both its biological role and clinical significance in the development and treatment of these illnesses."


This year's Plenary Scientific Session lineup includes dynamic research that spans the breadth of hematology, from pre-clinical and clinical research on stem cell science to targeted cancer therapies. "So there's something for everyone at the meeting," stressed Anderson.


New VTE Guidelines to Be Unveiled

Guideline development is a rigorous undertaking. In 2014, ASH braved this challenge and worked with McMaster University to create evidence-based clinical practice guidelines on the prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of venous thromboembolism (VTE). The outcomes of this collaboration will be unveiled at the annual meeting.


"The ASH membership has been clamoring for clinical practice guidelines," said Adam Cuker, MD, MS, Chair of the ASH VTE Guideline Coordination Panel. "We hope to make ASH members and practicing hematologists aware of ASH's ongoing efforts in the realm of clinical practice guidelines.


"We also plan to highlight the rigorous methodology and some of the key recommendations that will emerge from the VTE guideline," shared Cuker.


The VTE guidelines consists of 10 panels: prevention of VTE in surgical patients; prevention of VTE in nonsurgical patients; diagnosis of VTE; thrombophilia; treatment of VTE (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism); optimal management of anticoagulation therapy; heparin-induced thrombocytopenia; prevention and treatment of VTE in patients with cancer; VTE in the context of pregnancy; and VTE in pediatric populations.


Spotlight on Diversity

Earlier this year, ASH created the Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity to recognize the importance of diversity, inclusion, and advancement of underrepresented groups in hematology. "Diversity in the clinical and scientific community is incredibly important, and ASH is committed to fostering the leading and inclusive role that the hematology community continues to play," said Anderson.


"ASH's Awards Committee and the Committee on Promoting Diversity have proposed this new award to further recognize those committed to diversity and inclusion, and to serve as a visible example of the society's admiration for those who have faced down institutional barriers to success and societal disadvantages," he added.


Making the Most of the Annual Meeting

With over 25,000 hematology professionals expected at this year's meeting, it's important for attendees to come prepared to make the most of the workshops and sessions.


ASH offers a meeting app for attendees to get mobile access to the full program and study abstracts. The app allows users to save sessions of interest and create a personalized schedule. It also has a messaging feature that enables users to connect with fellow attendees.


To get the daily highlights, attendees can keep tabs on ASH News TV and ASH News Daily, which are available throughout the Congress Center. ASH News TV can also be viewed in select hotels, event shuttle buses, and on the ASH website. ASH News Daily will be distributed in select hotels, shuttles, and all over the Congress Center. For real-time updates and ongoing conversations on specific sessions, attendees can follow the meeting's social media hashtag: #ASH17.


Finally, ASH is adding a voice-control feature to better assist this year's attendees. Twelve Alexa stations will be placed throughout the Congress Center where attendees can ask questions and get instant answers.


Toni Marie Bacala is managing editor.