While arguably overused, the term "unprecedented" thematically encapsulates the maelstrom that was 2020. Few other adjectives can as effectively capture the struggles we have collectively experienced and witnessed since the beginning of this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. However, despite the pejorative connotations associated with its use, unprecedented can also serve as an inspirational term to define the depth of ingenuity, heroism, sacrifice, compassion, and empathy showcased by countless colleagues, patients, and caregivers over the course of the past year.
Scientifically, the rapid bench-to-chairside development of highly efficacious mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 is nothing short of an unprecedented accomplishment, and in this context, we are proud to acknowledge Lindsey Baden, MD, Dana-Farber infectious disease faculty and COVE trial co-principal investigator, on a job well done.
Institutionally, Dana-Farber has risen to the enormous challenge of continuing to provide world-class clinical care during a time of crisis, and within the Hematologic Malignancies (HM) Division, we must acknowledge the leadership of Rob Soiffer, MD, Martha Wadleigh, MD, and Julie Porter, who have collectively allowed us to maintain an unwavering standard of excellence for our patients.
Recognizing that cancer does not stop for COVID-19, neither have our HM faculty, as exhibited through the numerous advances in clinical and translational research that were made within our division despite the pandemic. At the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting held virtually for the first (and hopefully last) time in December 2020, Dana-Farber HM investigators presented more than 40 oral abstracts — reporting on key clinical trials, correlative studies, and pre-clinical efforts across the different disease groups.
While we unfortunately cannot include every notable study in this issue, we are proud to highlight four abstracts that we consider to be particularly noteworthy in terms of either immediate or eventual potential for practice-changing impact:
- Corey Cutler, MD, MPH, FRCPC, Medical Director of the Adult Stem Cell Transplantation Program, discussed the important findings of the BMTCTN study of allogeneic HCT in older patients with myelodysplastic syndrome.
- Caron Jacobson, MD, MMSc, Medical Director of the Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program, discussed the impressive efficacy and safety data from the ZUMA-5 trial of axicabtagene ciloleucel in patients with indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Nikhil Munshi, MD, Director of Basic and Correlative Science and Kraft Family Chair of the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center, discussed the extent of genomic change identified in the multiple myeloma cells of patients exposed to high-dose melphalan as part of first-line therapy.
- Finally, Rizwan Romee, MD, Director of the Haploidentical Donor Transplantation Program, discussed pre-clinical development of an innovative chimeric antigen receptor-natural killer (CAR-NK) cell construct that demonstrates potent and tumor-specific antigen targeting against NPM1-expressing acute myeloid leukemia.
As can be seen, the extent of scientific and clinical advances made by our colleagues over the course of the most difficult of years has been unprecedented in the best sense of the word. Accordingly, we hope you find this newsletter as interesting and exciting as we do — and we wish everyone a safer, happier, and more prosperous 2021.
— Cliff and Utty