Professor Jesús San Miguel, MD, PhD: Recipient of the Gregorio Marañón' National Research Award in Medicine 

Professor Jesús San Miguel, MD, PhD, Director of Clinical and Translational Medicine at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, received the prestigious Gregorio Marañón' National Research Award in Medicine from King Felipe VI of Spain during the awarding ceremonies held at the Barcelona International Convention Center recently. 

The prestigious award was presented to Prof. San Miguel in recognition of his “pioneering contribution” to biomedical research, “which has produced a paradigm shift in the conception of pathologies such as multiple myeloma and its treatments,” says the Ministry of Science and Innovation. 

During the awarding ceremonies, King Felipe VI emphasized how the pandemic has brought out the “enormous importance of science and its practical application,” while highlighting that the COVID-19 vaccine “could have not been achieved without the professionals who dedicate their lives to exploring the frontiers of knowledge.”

“It is necessary that public policies be supported by scientific evidence so that the best, most informed and contrasted decisions can be made, placing people at the center of them; that is, with values,” his Highness continued. 

Clearly, this award commends Prof. San Miguel’s enormous contributions in the field of myeloma, which include diagnostic testing, laboratory research, and treatment. In turn, Prof. San Miguel had this to say for the great honor bestowed on him: “as a doctor, it is an honor to receive the National Research Award, which represents one of the most emblematic figures in medicine due to its impact, not only scientific but also humanistic.” 

"This recognition, more than the reflection of a personal history, represents the stories of a group of people closely linked to my professional and personal career, who have lent me their ideas, their intelligence and their willingness to work to improve the future of patients with myeloma, both during my time at the University Hospital of Salamanca, and now at the University Clinic of Navarra,” Prof. San Miguel further added. 

As stated by Minister of Science and Innovation Diana Morant, “we go further when we cooperate,” while emphasizing on the importance of collaboration “between administrations and companies” in creating “a knowledge economy.”  And I fully agree with her statement. 

It is truly wonderful to see such a deserving member of the myeloma community receive a notable award. Although it is, in a sense, a lifetime achievement for Prof. San Miguel, his important work continues at a very high level. I am grateful to have had the chance to collaborate with him on many projects and I look forward to many more successful years of progress toward achieving the ultimate goal—finding a cure for myeloma. 

ASCO & EHA: Top Line Highlights

Determination Trial 

The 2022 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting and the 2022 European Hematology Association (EHA) Congress (the first hybrid EHA meeting) will be held in Vienna, Austria. 

A full discussion will be held on July 7th at the Post ASCO/EHA Webinar. In the meantime, it is important to be aware that a key presentation will take place at ASCO: the results of the DETERMINATION TRIAL will be presented by lead investigator Paul G. Richardson. The results are embargoed, so there is great excitement over new learnings from this trial, which is the U.S. arm of the previously reported Intergroupe Francophone Du Myélome (IFM) trial of VRd and lenalidomide maintenance, comparing early versus delayed autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT).

This will be a plenary presentation, which is considered prestigious by the myeloma community. Will we see any early indications of survival benefit with ASCT or as in the IFM trial, progression free survival (PFS) benefit with ASCT but no overall survival (OS) benefit thus far? Meanwhile, let us wait for the Chicago presentation. 

Liquid Biopsy (Blood Testing) Reveals Key Mutations

Highlighted in the ASCO Daily News is another study from a Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI)-supported group in Australia which studies circulating DNA as a biomarker of high-risk multiple myeloma (HRMM). Principal Investigator Dr. Sridurga Mithraprabhu is working with Prof. Andrew Spencer’s group in Alfred Hospital and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The circulating DNA (ctDNA) analyses identified biomarkers for early relapse from therapy using carfilzomib/thalidomide/dexamethasone as a salvage after a first relapse. The findings indicate that a blood test can identify molecular markers of poor risk and allow early identification of novel alternate therapy. The specific mutations identified include RAS/RAF and/or ATM/ATR/TP53. Follow-up studies are eagerly awaited. 

EHA Presidential Symposium

Another top line abstract from Dr. Carlos Fernandez de Larrea et al has been selected for the annual EHA presidential symposium. This study is interesting since it highlights ARI0002H (an Academic BCMA-Directed CAR T therapy) which includes a booster dose. There is much interest in the so-called “next generation” CAR T approaches against BCMA or other targets. At ASCO, results of a CAR T targeting GPRC5D will be presented and there will likewise be keen interest in these updated results.

COVID-19 Status Update

It is important to give a brief update on COVID-19, so I will highlight a recent article titled, ”Battle of Omicron." 

Unfortunately, it seems that the newest Omicron variants from South Africa, BA.4 and BA.5 are starting to surge in the U.S. and are now rapidly taking over the very infectious BA.2.12.1—what used to be the most dominant variant. 

The BA.4 and BA.5 variants are more likely to cause infections, even among fully vaccinated individuals (or what is referred to as vaccine breakthrough infections). This means that these variants will increasingly outcompete the other variants and win the “Battle of Omicron.” 

Therefore, myeloma patients must stay alert and continue with the necessary precautions, including wearing best-quality N95 and KN95 masks in all situations of potential exposure— especially when indoors or in areas with poor ventilation, or when there is a large group present.

Staying Resilient is Key

Despite the many challenges, it is important to work hard to stay focused and to seek out the best options for self-protection and ongoing care. Have confidence that the human body has the ability to recover and repair itself against all odds. Positive thinking is very important.

A New York Times story about salamanders illustrates recuperative powers—after all, the salamander is capable of growing back its own tail. And apparently, wandering salamanders that live atop California redwoods can actually fly! 

With great confidence, they extend their limbs and glide fearlessly from branch to branch. Defying gravity is definitely NOT A PROBLEM!

Although I am not planning to fly from branch to branch anytime soon, being confident in all that we set out to achieve can have a huge impact on outcomes. The power of positive thinking is like the magic of the flying salamander. 

Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieProfessor of Medicine, Hematologist/Oncologist, and Honoree MD at the University of Brussels, Dr. Brian G.M. Durie is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer of the IMF. Dr. Durie is also the Chairman of the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG)—a consortium of more than 250 myeloma experts from around the world—and leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI). 


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