Saturday, June 05, 2010

ASCO: Day One

ASCO is crazy! Not just plain crazy: cuh-huh-huh-ray-zay! I can't even begin to guess how many people are here. My best estimate would be about a go-zillion, and all of them are striding briskly about the enormous conference center in black suits. Part of me thinks, "Wow! How cool is it that I have a disease so important that a go-zillion people are all striding about an enormous conference center trying to make it all better?" The other part of me thinks,"Wow! How terrible is it that I have a disease so awful that a go-zillion people are all striding about an enormous conference center trying to make it all better?"

We took a shuttle bus from our hotel to the conference center. I heard someone say that there are 12 shuttle bus routes with 15 buses per route, constantly coming and going from hotels to the conference center all day. That's how many people are here. After what seemed like hours, we made it through the sea of black suits to the registration desk, where I got a big badge with a light blue ribbon on it that says, "Cancer Survivor". Then they sent me over to another desk where I got -- score! -- a free tote bag! You are totally jealous of my fatal disease again, aren't you?

Jay and I wandered through the exhibit hall, which was enormous. Of course, we stopped off at the IMF booth, and we also visited the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the Managing Myeloma booth. Celgene (the makers of Revlimid) had an enormous booth, and they were giving away (wait for it) free cappuccino. In fact, most booths were giving away stuff. I walked away with some M&Ms, some jellybeans, and a couple of Hershey's kisses from the Velcade display. Nice.

Then it was time for today's myeloma session, "Novel Therapies for Myeloma." It turns out, when doctors say they are going to discuss "carfilzomib", they mean they are really going to discuss "carfilzomib", and not sip margaritas. Dang.

I totally went, and I totally took notes, but I'm not sure I understood my notes while I was taking them, and I'm not sure I understand them now. For example, at one point I wrote down, "rat and monkey models". What? I also actually wrote down, "When you block the (something somethings), you get killing of myeloma cells." I actually wrote "something somethings."

And these doctors really, really like charts and graphs. There were some absolutely beautiful charts and graphs at these presentations, in all colors of the rainbow. Some were very elaborate, with big circles and lines and wavy things, and things that looked like enormous purple eyeballs and starbursts. I had no idea what they meant. Maybe they didn't mean anything.

But I guess what I came away with is this: There are a couple new drugs being studied (pomalidomide and carfilzomib) that are like Revlimid and Velcade: The Next Generation. These drugs seem to work better, have fewer side effects in many cases, and -- what the doctors seemed most excited about -- is that they seem to work even on patients who have already been through tons of previous therapies. So, for example, if Revlimid quits working for you, Pomalidomide (the next-generation version) could still probably work. As a patient, this left me feeling very hopeful about all of the options for the future. Here's one of my notes that I do understand: "These new agents are very exciting, even if they are new versions of old drugs."

After the session, I was able to meet up with fellow myeloma blogger Minnesota Don and meet his family, who are all just lovely, lovely people. I keep telling you: Only cool people get myeloma.

That's all for tonight's report. All of that brisk striding has me worn out.


Abigail said...

Wow, it sounds like you certainly deserve a margarita!

Susie Hemingway said...

I did enjoy reading this post and knowing about the positive hopeful feeling, you gained from this seminar about new MM drugs on the way, some that will hopefully be of help to those running out of options. Some newer drugs that will also help with lesser side effects. You wrote this post in a most light hearted way but the message it carried was so upbeat and full of hope - thank you.

Sean Murray said...

Thanks for your report, CG!

It ain't easy being cool, but I guess someone has to do it. Though I'd gladly be the world's biggest nerd to get rid of this thing.

As Susie said, it is encouraging to hear the favorable news about pomalidomide and carfilzomib.

Looking forward to your next installment from the Windy City. If you run into my doctor please say 'hi.' Yes, I know that there are 30,000 of them!:) Sean