The scientific marathon that was #ASH22 cannot be described, it can only be experienced. The annual meeting is much more than just science … it is about the moments shared with friends and colleagues, the inspirational memories, and the creative discoveries that will shape future research and clinical practice. This year was particularly exciting since after a very strange few years, a relatively normal annual meeting with more than 25,000 participants wrapped up in New Orleans, Louisiana. By the end of the meeting, we had seen hundreds of sessions and thousands of abstracts — an overwhelming accumulation of scientific content. And if you blinked, you might have a missed a few. Here, we have assembled some of the noteworthy experiences from #ASH22.
Nice to Meet You
How many times did we hear this echoing throughout the Earnest N. Morial Convention Center halls: “Nice to finally meet you [or see you] … in person!” This conversation starter became an all-too-familiar tagline, matched by the authentic, palpable joy that could only be felt through genuine human connection. Whether it be colleagues, collaborators, long-distance mentors, or trainees, there was a real magic captured in the human experience of either meeting or finally reuniting with cherished colleagues face-to-face. As a friend so aptly stated, it is “nice to know we are real humans and not box-shaped avatars.” Plus, there’s a lot less free-ee-ee-ee-eh-zzinng in person, right? There is, indeed, a special energy that comes with real-life conversations and at scientific meetings we are always seeking authentic ways to connect. Science is very much about telling a story, and this story was a beautiful one filled with unions and reunions.
Shades of Red
Maternal health, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and their intersections with hematology were at the forefront of #ASH22. A standout maternal health session held on Monday, December 12 illustrated key legal, media-related, and policy efforts and was followed by an inspiring multifaceted discussion among fearless advocates, inclusive of hematologists, patients and obstetricians. The Grassroots Network Lunch also featured an impactful talk on the intersection of hematology and gynecology, concluding with a fitting quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” amplifying the call for individual involvement in health care advocacy. Additionally, DEI was spotlighted during the Health Equity Studio through engaging microlearning sessions centered on health care inequities; implicit bias; and ways to overcome disparities in health care, clinical trials, and career development. These enlightening conversations made us sit up straight in our seats, so we recommend saving the print edition of the Maternal Health Compendium and a snapshot of the Maternal Health Wall as treasured #ASH22 keepsakes.
A Well-Crafted Constellation
The constellation of classical and malignant hematology research presented at the annual meeting yielded a handful of practice-changing and timeless observations. The Plenary Scientific Session and Late-Breaking Abstracts session featured a total of nine randomized clinical trials paving the way for new treatment paradigms: ibrutinib in mantle cell lymphoma, efgartigimod in refractory immune thrombocytopenia, early allogeneic transplantation for relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia, blinatumomab for measurable residual disease–negative B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia, zanubrutinib in relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia, post-transplant cyclophosphamide as graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis in the setting of matched allogeneic transplant, high-dose chemotherapy followed by autologous stem-cell transplant as consolidation therapy in primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL), iptacopan for paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), and omission of low-molecular-weight heparin in thrombophilic pregnant women with history of recurrent pregnancy loss. New scientific discoveries included characterization of the functional role of Nprl3 in erythropoiesis, C1 esterase inhibitor as an endogenous anticoagulant, and selective CALR (calreticulin) directed monoclonal antibody therapy for myeloproliferative neoplasms. These are the rising stars we will surely be gazing at in the celestial hematologic galaxy of the future. Telescope optional.
As the backdrop to our connections with friends and colleagues and a storybook all itself, New Orleans provided a “subtropical” interlude as hot as the jazz dripping off Frenchman Street, to beat the winter blues (or join ‘em). The Wellness Studio was exceedingly popular, amongst which our top picks were “The Greatest Medicine - A True Friend” and “A Simple Way to More Resilience.”
Always wanted a keepsake photo of yourself and a friend on a makeshift Riverboat or next to a pair of outrageously oversized ASH-branded glasses? Yup, ASH has got you! The #ASH22-themed Photo Zone was a superhit, as was Headshot Alley, the nap pods, and fASHion store. And passionate soccer fans celebrated Morocco’s courageous and historic World Cup quarter final victory over Portugal at the ASH Park @ The Plaza.
Perhaps one final shout-out is owed to the ASH News Daily team/family, who (while you spent your days scurrying about from session to session, sponging up the science and the brilliance) were mostly holed up in a room on the third floor doing everything in their power to curate, guide, report, entertain, capture, celebrate, inform, and fulfill your needs as an attendee and loyal reader. And a final shout-out goes to you all for being such marvelous muses and a superb raison d’être.
#ASH22 was a rich source of many memorable moments that further cemented the irreplaceable power of in-person scientific meetings. In case you missed anything, the #ASH22 virtual meeting platform and ASH News Daily remain accessible to help you catch up. Please save the date for #ASH23, in San Diego, December 9-12, 2023. See you next year!
Dr. Gangat and Dr. Szuber indicated no relevant conflicts of interest.