The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) team—Susie Novis, IMF President; Lisa Paik, Senior Vice President, Clinical Education & Research Initiatives; Dan Navid, Vice President, Global Affairs; and myself— just returned from Beijing, China, where we participated in what will be the annual meetings of the Chinese Myeloma Committee.

This is the latest in ongoing collaborations between the IMF and Chinese myeloma specialists. The IMF held the first clinical conference for myeloma investigators and participating clinicians in 2007 in Beijing. In 2011, the IMF established the Chinese Myeloma Working Group (CMWG), with members from nine myeloma centers. Since then,  meetings have been held in Shanghai (2012), Guangzhou (2013), Hangzhou (2014) and Beijing (May and October 2015).

At the May 2015 meeting, it was decided that the CMWG should evolve into a larger, more representative group. This group is now called the CMC (Chinese Myeloma Committee) and has 39 members, including some subspecialists such as nephrologists and orthopedic surgeons. It is affiliated with the Chinese Association of Hematology and the Chinese Medical Doctors Association.

A relaxed atmosphere and discussion of collaboration

The inaugural CMC meeting was held on Friday, October 3rd, at the Beijing Convention Center. After formalities were settled, including plans for the next meeting in 2016 in Shanghai, I was invited to present to the group on behalf of the IMF and the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG). The atmosphere was relaxed: all members and guests were sitting in large armchairs, rather like an afternoon tea room. President of the Chinese Association of Hematology,  Professor Wenming Chen (who is Director of the Beijing Myeloma Research Center, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this year), introduced me and invited open discussion of potential collaborations.

As a backdrop, Prof. Chen summarized what has been accomplished so far, including the publication of the results of our database research, multiple doctor meetings and patient seminars, and the very successful IMF Myeloma Master Class, an annual course for Chinese physicians held each summer in Los Angeles. After four years, there are now 28 alumni of this course. The first alumni dinner was held earlier this year in Beijing. Many of the alumni were present at this first CMC meeting and were very excited to renew friendships with the IMF team and learn about new collaborations.

IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative in China

I presented several topics for consideration. The first was to introduce the Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI) to China. This idea was met with great enthusiasm. Plans are already in place for Dr. Bruno Paiva (the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain) to visit the flow cytometry laboratory in the department of Prof. Jian Hou and Dr. Juan Du in Shanghai to introduce and set up NGF (Next-Generation Flow) in January 2016. The IMF will supply the monoclonal antibodies and computer software to get things started. We will soon bring NGF to other Chinese centers. I encouraged linking initial minimal residual disease (MRD) testing to a new treatment protocol within which the MRD positive or negative status will be assessed.

Fortunately, Prof. Jean-Luc Harousseau (University of Nantes, France) and Prof. Shaji Kumar (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN), IMF invitees for the meeting and symposium (the next day), were able to contribute valuable ideas. Both comparative and "cure" trials were discussed. Then, broader collaborations that include the entire Asian Myeloma Network (AMN) were reviewed to bring this session to a close and move on to dinner. Photo "ops" were mandatory, including a group shot with the CMC and IMF. All in all, it was a very congenial meeting with high expectations for the future.

The next day, the IMF hosted a special symposium as part of the first CMC Annual Clinical Conference Meeting. Prof. Harousseau discussed "The Role of Allotransplant.” Dr. Kumar discussed a unique topic requested by the Chinese: "How to Achieve a High-Quality Publication." I followed by providing an update on the Black Swan Research Initiative. All were received well and followed by lively discussions. Speakers were subsequently interviewed by Chinese TV (CCTV)

First myeloma drug developed in China

Later that day, we had the unique opportunity to receive an update about the first drug for myeloma developed entirely in China by Beijing Sunbio Biotech Co., Ltd. Prof. Chen had previously presented promising initial phase I-ll results for CPT (Circularly Permuted TRAIL) as an oral presentation at ASH 2012. The new update outlined an ongoing multi-institutional phase Ill trial with CPT in combination with thalidomide. Results will be available in 12-18 months. This new CPT agent is not yet available for study or use outside China.

On our final day, Sunday, October 25th, a patient seminar drew more than 200 patients and caregivers. Following an introduction by Xin Shaohua, President of the China Multiple Myeloma Foundation Aid Association, there were initial slide presentations in Chinese by Dr. Juan Du (Changzhen Hospital, The Second Military Medical University, Shanghai) and Prof. Jin Lu (Peking University Institute of Hematology, Beijing), followed by open Q&A session that included myself, Susie Novis, Dr. Harousseau, and Dr.  Kumar. Lively discussions were prompted by questions that had been pre-submitted, asked live in the room, and submitted by 300 to 400 patients who were participating in the livestream webcast. The Beijing "Myeloma Online Club" (coordinated by the Aid Association) has between 3,000 and 4,000 members. Common themes for questions were the role of transplant and maintenance therapy.

After an exhausting few days, the IMF team was ready to wrap up! This had been a wonderful opportunity to re-engage with our many colleagues and friends. The future is definitely bright for new developments in China. Around the globe right now there are many challenges facing myeloma patients and doctors, including access to care and cost, but there is a strong commitment to do the very best for patients with resources available.

Stay tuned for further updates!

Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieDr. Brian G.M. Durie serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.

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