Stem cells were high on the list of hot topics at this year’s American Society of Hematology conference in Orlando, Florida, particularly regarding the uses and effects of stem cells in the treatment of disease.
The Ham-Wasserman lecture, named for two past ASH presidents, was presented by Tsvee Lapidot, from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. His lecture looked at stem cell homing and mobilization, and will be the topic of an upcoming post. Harvard University’s Leonard I. Zon presented “Blood Stem Cell Self-Renewal and Differentiation – Lessons from Embryonic Development” as the part of the E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize series. Dr. Zon discussed the use of zebrafish as a model for examining the pathways of hematopoietic stem cell formation. His work has demonstrated that signaling pathways, which are crucial for initial blood stem cell development, are also involved in adult stem cell renewal.
Several interesting studies were presented during the press conference on the role of stem cell transplants in the treatment of blood cancers. Alexander H. Schmidt of the DKMS German Bone Marrow Donor Center conducted a retrospective study of over 12,000 unrelated donors of peripheral blood stem cells and bone marrow and found that this group did not have an increased risk of cancer. This was a concern raised previously in literature due to the use of filgrastim and similar drugs to mobilize the stem cells to the bloodstream. In the realm of patient treatment options, Amrita Krishnan, director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, compared autologous versus allogenic stem cell transplantation for patients with standard risk multiple myloma.
His study team found that the choice of tandem autologous stem cell transplant versus autologous transplant followed by an allogenic transplant did not affect overall outcomes or survival.
Indeed, these were only the tip of the iceberg. Over the two-day poster session, many more abstracts were presented on this topic, perhaps indicative of the strong, growing role of stem cell transplantation in healthcare. The efficacy of cell therapy, the use of cord blood, the choice of allogenic versus autologous transplant, and availability of new experimental treatments in the areas of leukemias and myelomas were among the many topics presented during the informal poster sessions. But while the focus was definitely on clinical results and applications, a number of abstracts also looked at the biology of hematopoietic stem cells, studying aspects of the stem cell micro-environment, regulation and development.
Finally, as the weekend wrapped up, ASH also honoured David T. Scadden from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute with the William Dameshek Prize, in recognition for his achievements in stem cell mobilization and imaging.