The first day of the highly anticipated 63rd ASH Annual Meeting & Exposition kicked off with a new track focused on diversity, health, and equity. As the world’s largest professional society committed to conquering blood diseases, ASH is building and nurturing a global hematology community and workforce inclusive of diverse perspectives, talents, and experiences. 

Key health equity topics covered on day one included an insightful anti-racism session led by Jennifer Tsai, MD, who argued that the biological idea of race should be dismantled, as race-based adjustments can have serious implications for patients. Dr. Tsai made the distinction that the goal is not to create a medical system that is color blind, but to address the societal inequities manifested by structural racism. More to come on how together we can engage communities to tackle health disparities. 

Day one highlights from the meeting included notable research findings in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), including:

  • Emerging frontline combinations: The use of venetoclax + obinutuzumab and venetoclax + obinutuzumab + ibrutinib provided superior undetectable minimal residual disease (uMRD) rates in peripheral blood at month 15 compared to standard chemoimmunotherapy in fit CLL patients. 
  • First-line treatment: A two-year post-randomization study of the MRD cohort receiving first-line treatment with ibrutinib + venetoclax confirms deep responses in patients with CLL. An additional year of follow-up showed no new MRD relapses, progressive disease, or deaths in patients with confirmed uMRD. The results support the potential for treatment-free remissions with fixed-duration treatment. 

Additional research highlights included: 

  • First-line leukemia treatment: In a phase 2 trial of vemurafenib + obinutuzumab, patients with newly diagnosed hairy cell leukemia achieved 100% complete response rate with high MRD negativity. Longer follow-up is needed to assess durability of remission. 
  • Treatment of relapsed/refractory marginal zone lymphoma: The results of the primary analysis of the BTK-naïve cohort in the CITADEL-204 trial showed rapid and durable clinical response to parsaclisib monotherapy, a next-generation PI3K inhibitor. 

Sessions also included advances in understanding COVID-19 and hematological diseases. A prospective multicentric study was conducted in Croatia examining the serologic responses of COVID vaccinations on patients with blood disorders. In this study, 120 patients were evaluated, confirming lower serological response rates in patients with hematologic diseases than those previously reported. Both vaccine doses were found to be beneficial. Factors influencing seronegativity after vaccine doses were reported as active treatment, no prior HSCT, diagnosed with NHL, and receiving anti-CD20 mAb. Learn more about COVID-19 and its effect on patients with blood disorders.