Today, May 8, is International Thalassemia Day. Today, we seek to enhance the awareness and knowledge of thalassemia and other hemoglobin disorders. Hence we appreciate the words of the EU commissioner of Health, Tornio Borg, who emphasizes the importance of prevention and research to improve the life of people suffering from this debilitating blood disorder.
‘There is cause for hope’ according to the commissioner. ‘Thanks to improved technology, medical advances, and the work of dedicated organisations, people with Thalassaemia are living longer. I am confident that with the cooperation and commitment of all actors in the field we will continue to improve the life of people suffering from Thalassaemia’.
EHA fully supports Thalassaemia International Federation who call upon all concerned today to stress the importance of ‘The right for quality health care of every patient with Thalassemia: major and beyond’.
The introduction of a European Hematology Association-Theme of the Year in June 2012, focusing on Quality of Life (QoL) in Hematology, was successful in stimulating awareness, conference sessions, publications, and reports.
The conclusion, in June 2013, of this year’s theme includes two editorials in Haematologica entitled “Patients’ needs in hematology: whose perspectives?” and “Age and Aging in blood disorders: EHA Theme of the Year 2013-2014’’. The Scientific Working Group Quality of Life and Symptoms will organize a SWG Session “Implementation of treatment related patient-reported outcomes in routine clinical practice in hematological malignancies”. Although each theme of the year is introduced to highlight a certain topic in hematology, the themes will remain active. Therefore, Quality of Life will stay on the agenda.
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) regenerate blood cells throughout the lifespan of an individual. The HSC pool has to accommodate to the cellular stresses associated with its life-long activity. HSCs are protected in specific bone marrow areas called “niches”. New technologies allow the analysis of different bone marrow compartments and the functional implications on HSCs. HSCs persist for a lifetime; there is a balance between their proliferation and their quiescent (sleeping) state. Therefore, the HSCs cell cycle is controlled by factors within and outside the cell.
The word ‘leukemia’ fills people with awe and foreboding. Things have changed, however, for the better. In children who have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) the cure rate is about 90%. In adults the story is not so good. The predominant type of leukemia in adults is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and most patients are over 60 years of age. Although age was felt to be an important factor in the poor responses seen in adults, it is now clear that Acute Leukemia in older patients is a different disease which is intrinsically resistant to traditional chemotherapy.
To date, up to 80% of patients with the most common subtype of malignant lymphoma (diffuse large B-cell lymphoma), are cured of this aggressive disease by chemotherapy, in combination with the anti-lymphoma antibody Rituximab. Unfortunately, young patients with high risk disease and elderly patients fare much worse and there is an urgent need to improve their outcome. However, the past year has seen a significant increase in our knowledge of the biology of disease. Using gene expression profiling and other new molecular techniques, we are beginning to recognize/identify the disease driver pathways which make lymphoma cells continue to proliferate. These major advances will be extensively reported at the meeting. The first results of clinical studies with new "smart molecules", such as lenalidomide, enzastaurin, bortezomib and ibrutinib, to mention a few, that specifically kill the cancer cells with only minimal damage to normal tissues/organs will be presented. So far, this modern "personalized medicine" approach appears to be promising, in particular for patients who only respond poorly to conventional treatment.
Personalized medicine and hematology have strong links. As one of the few medical specialties to do so,hematology has developed successful personalized medicine strategies and has managed to actually increase cure rates. It looks as if the future of research into blood disorders will yield more and more subtypes of diseases that will necessitate more personalized diagnoses and treatments. EHA is a member of the European Alliance for Personalized Medicine (EAPM) to work together with other academics, healthcare professionals, payers, patients, and industry representatives to accelerate the development, delivery and uptake of personalized medicine and diagnostics. Last week, this alliance organized the Irish Presidency Conference on ‘Innovation and Patient Access to Personalised Medicine’ in Dublin.
From the conference, the following press statement is released:
The Board of the European Hematology Association (EHA) has the pleasure to cordially invite you, as a member of the press, to the 18th Congress of EHA. More than 9,500 participants from around the world are expected at the upcoming 18th Congress of the European Hematology Association at the Stockholmsmässan in Stockholm, Sweden from June 13-16, 2013.
There are many myths out there. Today, on World Cancer Day 2013, you can get the facts. One and a half million premature deaths per year, among them from hematological malignancies, could be prevented.
The first ever EHA-SWG Scientific Meeting, titled Focus on Neutropenia & other genetic marrow failure failures took place in Genova, Italy, from September 14-16, 2012.
The meeting was chaired by Carlo Dufour, MD from the Heamtology Unit from G. Gaslini Children’s Hospital, Genova, Italy
60 participants attended the meeting from Europe, Middle-East, Africa and United States. Attendance included faculty members, trained and in training doctors involved in the field of neutropenia, marrow failure and pediatric hematology in general.
At the 54th Annual Meeting of ASH, Dr Francesco Lo Coco, lead author and Chairman of the APL subcommittee of the Italian GIMEMA group and Professor of Hematology at University Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy, presented the outcome of new research that demonstrates the efficacy of the first curative treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) that does not include chemotherapy, marking an important step toward front-line use of targeted therapies for acute leukemia.