Jack Aiello: ASH15 Is Myeloma’s Biggest Year Yet

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The year of 2015 will long be remembered as the Year of Multiple Myeloma at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference.  On location, medical correspondent Carol Preston speaks with friend, fellow patient and patient advocate, Jack Aiello, regarding the amazing strides taken this year in the field of multiple myeloma.  Jack reviews the rapidly expanding armamentarium and excitedly shares that for the first time at ASH, the word cure is being cautiously used in reference to multiple myeloma.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Carol Preston:

Hello everyone and welcome.  I'm Carol Preston.  I'm a CLL patient, and I'm reporting to you from ASH, the American Society of Hematology in Orlando, Florida.  This is the largest blood cancer meeting in the world and a major focus this year on multiple myeloma.  Right now, I'm talking with Jack Aiello, a patient advocate.  And, Jack, you and I spoke exactly one year ago at ASH 2014, and it was kind of a quiet year for MM then, but boy, what a difference a year makes. 

Jack Aiello:

Yeah, it's been amazing.  I've been a patient for 21 years now, a myeloma patient, and I've never seen a year like 2015.  It began in February with the approval of what's called an HDAC inhibitor called panobinostat (Farydak), and then this past November three more drugs were approved.  One is an oral drug, a proteasome inhibitor called ixazomib (Ninlaro), and the other two are monoclonal antibodies.  And I'll say more about them. 

I am so excited to be here, though.  I'm here with a number of other patient advocates on the behalf of the International Myeloma Foundation who get sponsors to send us to get educated and pass along the word to other patients.  

Carol Preston:

What do you want patients to know about this—this remarkable year?  I mean, the floodgates for new medications have just cracked wide open.  

Jack Aiello:

It has.  I think there are a couple of things to know.  Even though there are four new drugs approved this year, they're approved under certain criteria.  You have to have been a relapsed patient with a certain number of treatments, so even at this ASH I'm listening to trials that are looking at those drugs in newly diagnosed patients, so there will still be further approval levels for those drugs that make them generally more widespread available. 

But the exciting thing is that three of these drugs are in two brand-new categories to attack myeloma.  Myeloma is a very complex disease and cell, from what I understand, and it's most effective when combination therapies are used, and in fact this will give us additional combinations.  Already at this ASH we've heard Dr. Durie present his clinical trial results where a three-drug regimen, lenalidomide (Revlimid), bortezomib (Velcade), [dexamethasone] (Decadron), is more effective than a two-drug regimen. 

But what we might see because they are different categories one day is maybe a monoclonal antibody will be added to one of these.  Or I heard earlier about a study of panobinostat being added to one of these.  So it gives myeloma patients a greater arsenal of therapies to use to really combat their myeloma and manage their disease for as long as possible.  

Carol Preston:

You're a patient, I'm a chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient, and of course what we're all hoping and hungering for is a cure.  These combination therapies or these therapies put in combination, do you see a positive end to the road with these therapies? 

Jack Aiello:

Well, I saw a myeloma education presentation yesterday that was titled Path Towards a Cure, so in myeloma cure is never used, and more recently it has been.  One of the important studies that has to be done is a way to detect myeloma in patients, and MRD, minimal residual disease, is being defined and looked at as a more sophisticated result, testing result, than saying a patient, for example, is in complete remission because too often patients in complete remission relapse. 

So let's say that MRD was even more sophisticated in determining the amount of myeloma in one's system, and maybe MRD negative says it can't find any to a very high degree of sensitivity, then will MRD negative say, I am cured?  Or I can stop treatment?  Or I only need to take a smaller amount of treatment? 

Carol Preston:

It's almost a functional—almost like a functional cure, basically.  

Jack Aiello:

Yeah.  I mean it may be something that's chronologically controlled like diabetes, but to be able to even offer that to all myeloma patients is very exciting. 

Carol Preston:

It is exciting, and Jack, we are so excited that you are here to bring us such good news for yourself and many other multiple myeloma patients. 

I'm Carol Preston reporting for ASH.  Thanks for watching. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on February 5, 2016