The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) recently asked its support group leaders what provides them with the resilience to meet the challenges of their myeloma journey. Many said family, friends, and travel. I definitely get resilience from my husband, family, friends and just being able to do everyday things like gardening and my morning walks. But for me, the root of my resilience comes from research. The calm that comes from knowing that new treatment options are on the table releases me to live a ‘normal’ life that is not dominated by myeloma. The massive amount of research that is taking place in every corner of the world on behalf of myeloma patients like me not only provides hope, but more importantly it continually produces real treatment options.
For the 7th time, I am honored and thrilled to be a part of the IMF’s team of patient representatives attending the 61st Annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting. Each year, I am more educated going into the conference, which allows me to take more away from the experience. Participating in ASH immerses me in the latest research and sets the stage for the information that I will follow throughout the entire year. I take this knowledge back to my support group and strive to inspire my members to be educated patients who take an active role in their treatment decisions.
I was diagnosed with myeloma in April 2010 when I was 46 years old. My husband and I marked our 14th wedding anniversary in the treatment room where I was getting my first Velcade (Bortezomib), dexamethasone and Aredia (pamidronate disodium) treatments. And of course, I was also taking Revlimid (lenalidomide) at home. At that time, treatments like monoclonal antibodies were not even being discussed in my world. Five years later in 2015, the ASH conference was rocked by the recent approvals of the first monoclonal antibodies for myeloma patients – Darzalex (daratumumab) and Empliciti (elotuzumab). I’ve been intrigued by monoclonal antibody treatments since my first ASH and I will continue to report on them again this year. I have personal experience with this class of drug and can attest to their effectiveness and their low side effect profile. I was treated with Emplicti for almost 2 years and for the last 18 months my current regimen is Darzalex, Pomalyst (pomalidomide) and dex which is supplemented by twice-weekly Neupogen (filgrastrim) shots in order to keep my white count high enough to avoid any treatment interruptions.
Today, Revlimid-Velcade-dex is still the standard of care for newly diagnosed patients, but the introduction of monoclonal antibodies is beginning to rival this long-standing first treatment regimen. Darzalex is already approved as an induction (first) treatment option for transplant and non-transplant eligible patients. Not only will I be reporting on the continued data released on the approved monoclonal antibodies and the new combinations being explored with them, I will also bring you information on antibody drug conjugate (ADC) technology. This technology combines monoclonal antibodies with potent cytotoxic agents. In laymen’s terms, it attaches a more traditional chemotherapy to a monoclonal antibody. The monoclonal antibody targets a particular antigen on the myeloma cell and then delivers the combined therapy directly to the myeloma cell. This avoids the wide-spread cell death traditionally experienced with cytotoxic agents.
Many thanks to the IMF and the pharmaceutical company sponsors that provide the resources for our team to attend. My ASH experience will be filled with long days and some information overload, but I will be rallied by the resilience that the research provides me. I can’t wait to learn more and share this with you. Be sure to check out my blogs and tweets!
Linda Huguelet, Chattanooga Multiple Myeloma Networking Group