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  • Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, is the current President of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). He is the Program Director at Dana-Farber's Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center and LeBow Institute for Myeloma Therapeutics. Dr. Anderson is also an Institute Physician, and the Kraft Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He shares his insights into the highlights of the upcoming 2017 ASH Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA.

    Q: What are some of the themes you expect to see at this year's ASH meeting?

    KEN ANDERSON: The main themes this year will be targeted therapies and immunologic treatments in both hematologic disorders and hematologic cancers. It truly is remarkable how novel therapies are transforming the management in both settings, and there are multiple examples of these advances – in oral sessions, in the plenary session, in the Presidential Symposium, and in other featured presentations.

    Q. Can you give a few examples of these?

    KEN ANDERSON: Within the hematologic malignancies, there are advances in T-cell lymphoma showing that an anti-CCR4 monoclonal antibody can markedly improve patient outcomes.

    There is a first-in-human Phase I clinical trial of a novel KIT D816V-targeted therapy in advanced systemic mastocytosis that will be presented by Dana-Farber's Dr. Dan DeAngelo.

    There are also combination therapies exemplified by ibrutinib plus venetoclax in relapsed refractory CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). Much of the work, especially on venetoclax, has been done by Dana-Farber's Dr. Tony Letai.

    And there will be results from a Phase III trial on brentuximab vedotin plus doxorubicin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine versus ABVD therapy in Hodgkin lymphoma, which will be introduced in the plenary session by Dana-Farber's Dr. George Canellos.

    Q: What role do you think research in CAR T-cell therapies will have at the meeting? There's been a lot of buzz around that.

    KEN ANDERSON: There will be a number of exciting presentations on CD19 CAR T cells in lymphoma and BCMA CAR T cells in multiple myeloma, showing remarkable efficacy even in far-advanced disease. CD19 CAR T cells and many other new targeted agents approved by the FDA for hematologic disorders and cancers this year will be featured in several special FDA sessions.

    Q. What about hematologic disorders?

    KEN ANDERSON: Within hematologic disorders, we have the study of a new bispecific antibody, called emicizumab, which restores Factor VIII activity in pediatric patients with hemophilia A. There is also a new intravenous AAV5-FVIII gene transfer treatment which, with a single injection, can maintain Factor VIII levels for greater than one year.

    We also have results from a new large, randomized trial showing that oral direct anticoagulant rivaroxaban is non-inferior to low molecular-weight heparin in management of venous thromboembolism in cancer patients, and we have a new monoclonal antibody called caplacizumab, which blocks von Willebrand factor and platelet aggregation in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

    Q. Reflecting on your tenure as ASH president, what are some achievements/advancements that you are proud of?

    KEN ANDERSON: There have been multiple new initiatives in ASH this past year. These include forming patient registries in hematologic disorders and in hematologic malignancies, which will link the world's data in terms of patient laboratory and genomic characterization with clinical outcome. The first registries will involve multiple myeloma and sickle cell disease.

    We have undertaken a major initiative in sickle-cell disease to increase awareness, fund more research, foster interests in new drug development, and develop a clinical trials network.

    Other major initiatives include precision medicine, immunologic therapies, recruitment and retention, and a whole new educational road map. These initiatives have laid out the plan for ASH to go forward over the next several years. We've also had a major effort to increase the activities of the ASH Foundation and fundraising to increase both awareness and support for all these ASH activities.

    I have had the opportunity to participate in clinical research training of the next generation of caregivers and researchers in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere. I have tried not only to increase awareness of advances to caregivers and patients internationally, but also to ensure that patients around the world have access to these advances.

    Finally, it has been an honor and privilege to work with the ASH staff and academic colleagues, who are passionately committed to moving scientific advances rapidly to new treatments, and to improving patient outcomes, while at the same time training the next generation of researchers and caregivers in hematology. There is no greater gift than this.