November 2019 ALLG Scientific Meeting Highlights

 In News, Scientific Meeting

The ALLG November Scientific Meeting 2019 wrapped up in Adelaide on November 15, having delivered an expanded forum for shaping the direction of blood cancer research across Australia and New Zealand.

Full Wrap-up of the ALLG November Scientific Meeting 2019

The ALLG aims at every one of its biannual Scientific Meetings to capture the collaborative synergism of ALLG Members and industry partners, and the November meeting was a resounding success in terms of delivering training, education, updates of ALLG clinical and member engagement at all levels.

Please see the full agenda for a list of presentations and speakers. Copies of the available presentations have been posted on the ALLG website in the Members Portal under ‘Meetings & Events’ page. (Please note that it is easiest to log into the Member Portal and then link directly to the presentations page).

Industry Sponsors

Thank you to our industry partners for their support of the Scientific Meeting and ALLG members in advancing initiatives for delivering therapies for blood cancers. Without industry support, the ALLG could not run such an engaging platform for advancing blood cancer research.

We welcomed AstraZeneca, Celltrion and Sanofi as first-time sponsors for the ALLG Scientific Meeting.

Daily Highlights of the Scientific Meeting:

Tuesday, November 12

  • Prof David Ross facilitated a haematology training day focused on CML and MPN for trial coordinators, data managers and research nurses who are responsible for ALLG clinical trials. This all-day training event featured excellent updates from Tim Hughes, Andrew Perkins, Sue Branford, Devendra Hiwase, Naranie Shanmuganathan, and Jir-Ping Boey.

Wednesday, November 13

  • ALLG Clinical Research Associate Chrissie Risteski led the Clinical Trials Operations Meeting on Wednesday. This session was developed particularly for trial coordinators, data managers and research nurses to deliver updates on ALLG trials and to help support their research practices. Speakers included Lien Lam from Novartis on TKI drug development, Jerneen Williams from Bellberry on Phase I trial submissions and ALLG team members on a variety of topics including site feasibility, data management and event-driven analysis. The new ALLG Partnerships & Fundraising Manager, Kate Halford, also launched the 2020 ALLG Scholarships & Awards aimed at helping ALLG Associate Members further develop their research interests.
  • The Myeloma, CML/MPN and CLL Working Parties all held Clinical Research Workshops on Wednesday. Key discussions on research directions within the working party streams are sharpening the focus of research in the various areas for 2020 and beyond. For members of those working parties that could not attend on the day, full minutes will be made available via email shortly.
  • The CLL workshop, which was developed in collaboration with CLL ARC and chaired by Bryone Kuss and Stephen Mulligan, focused on bringing CLL clinicians and scientists together. International guest speaker, Prof Jonathan Strefford (University of Southampton, UK), discussed how molecular characterisation of CLL and how the process has evolved over the years, with new understanding of the importance of genomics in the treatments and outcomes in the clinical setting. He described how the CLL genome has fewer mutations than other tumours, but they cluster in pathways of historical importance. Support for the session was provided by Janssen.
  • The Multiple Myeloma workshop, chaired by Peter Mollee, featured ALLG member presentations as well as industry presentations from Amgen, Celgene and Janssen. Hang Quach opened the ALLG presentations with a summary of how her involvement in the ALLG has helped her develop her research portfolio and gain support and funding for her clinical trials and described how junior researchers can engage with more senior researchers through the ALLG to develop their research ideas. She later presented on the development of several new protocols, including the SeaLAND study. Craig Wallington-Beddoe described his work on MM-T1 cell surface protein expression in newly diagnosed MM that started in December 2018. Adelaide researcher Kate Vandyke discussed her series of studies on myeloma plasma cells and chemokine regulation in migration of tumour cells. Slavisa Ninkovic discussed his novel PhD research in methods of detecting and stratifying risk in myeloma with multiplex immunohistochemistry and the potential for mapping where myeloma cells are in the marrow. Simon Harrison presented his latest translational CAR T-cell work, his proposed BCMA Bite study and led an engaged discussion of how CAR T-cell research can be implemented practically and feasibly across Australian sites. Andrew Spencer presented on a range of topics, as did Simon Gibbs.
  • The CML/MPN workshop, chaired by David Ross, featured updates on the planning for the ALLG inclusion of TFR in the NBCR, the CML13 ASCEND-CML: Frontline Asciminib from Tim Hughes and the KISS Study from Peter Browett and presented by David Ross. Other discussions centred around CML genomic studies, presented by Naranie Shanmuganathan; MPN NGS Panel testing, presented by David Ross; and the incorporation of high-risk MPN in the ALLG NBCR, presented by Andrew Perkins. Belinda Guo and Daniel Thomas presented their translational research abstracts on bone marrow fibrosis in MPN and an overview of a blood-based approach for monitoring fibrotic progression in MPN. Support for the session was provided by Gilead and AbbVie.

Thursday, November 14

  • In his opening address, SAC Chair Peter Mollee welcomed all attendees, including members, sponsors, ALLG staff and board members, as well as keynote and international speakers. Key messages were to use the meeting as an avenue for engagement in driving the efforts of all attendees to deliver upon our common purpose – to deliver “better treatments, better lives” for patients with blood cancer. He instilled that the ALLG is a for-purpose / not-for-profit organisation that depends on donations and announced the coffee cart and Jelly Beans in the Beaker competition for a gold coin donation at the ALLG Booth. He outlined key events happening on the Thursday and Friday to encourage maximum attendance and conversation.
  • The Acute Leukaemia and Supportive Care Working Parties both held breakfast meetings on Thursday. Minutes will be circulated via email to the working party members.
  • Angelina YoungThe Myeloma Working Party kicked off the first session, with Peter Mollee as chair. Angelina Young presented the latest in MM research, while Hang Quach proposed her new concept study of lenalidomide with or without selinexor maintenance post ASCT, and Simon Gibbs presented the MEDDAL concept study (melphalan, dexamethasone and subcutaneous daratumumab (MDD) in patients with R/R AL amyloidosis. Andrew Spencer updated attendees on progress in the MM19, MM20 and MM21 trials, and Peter Mollee presented MM16 updates for Joy Ho. Hang Quach provided updates on the MM18 study.
  • Peter T KempenThe ALLG Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at 10:30am and presented by the ALLG Chairman of the Board, Peter Kempen AM. ALLG CEO Delaine Smith described the significant achievements by the ALLG throughout the 2018-19 financial year, including 66 open clinical trials, and contributing to 15 government consultations in addition to several other ALLG initiatives. In addition, the successful outcomes of the ALLG’s ongoing relationships with international collaborative research organisations, especially HOVON, our European comparator, as well as the first visits to ASH and EHA, which all support the overarching goal of the organisation to increase international collaborations and enhance the ALLG’s presence within the international blood cancer community.Please visit the ALLG website members portal for the minutes of the AGM under the ALLG Governance tab, the video recording of the presentations and the Annual Review 2019, which was launched at the AGM.
  • Zoe McQuiltenZoe McQuilten chaired the Supportive Care session on Thursday morning, and Rob Weinkove got “rational” and shared updates of the current supportive care studies completed and in planning. His work on the immunoglobulin treatments for secondary hypogammaglobulinaemia was presented – the RATIONAL study is a Phase II feasibility trial of immunoglobulin vs prophylactic antibiotics for secondary hypogammaglobulinaemia, and the RATIONALISE study is a feasibility trial of continuing immunoglobulin therapy, or stopping with or without prophylactic antibiotics, to prevent infection in patients with secondary hypogammaglobulinaemia. Zoe shared results of a post-hoc analysis of the ALLG MDS03 and MDS04 trials, describing the impact of haemoglobin on QOL in high-risk MDS undergoing disease-modifying therapy. She also provided an update on the PaSCC RAPID Pharmacovigilence Study, which looked at tranexamic acid for bleeding in the palliative care setting.
  • Andrew Wei chaired the Acute Leukaemia & MDS session on Thursday afternoon. Sun Loo kicked off the presentations, detailing updates to the AML, ALL and MDS landscape. The ALLG NBCR Project Coordinator, Eva Pesce, presented an updated the AML and ALL numbers within the NBCR, and a range of new study concepts were presented by: Anoop Enjeti (MYDASS-T), Andrew Wei (INTERCEPTv2), Chong Chyn Chua (AMLM22 new domain proposal), Shaun Fleming (ALL05 follow-on study, AML prognostic classification, and gemtuzumab ozogomycin in CBF AML), Devendra Hiwase (Geriatric assessment in elderly AML), Steven Lane (MoST-LLy), Michelle Ananda-Raja (Applied AI for fungal infections). Andrew Wei also updated attendees on proposed studies AMLM24 and AMLM25: INTERVENE, and Carolyn Grove proposed a new concept trial in QUIZESCENCE+5-FU. Later in the afternoon, updates were provided on studies in progress, with Shaun Fleming updating the crowd on the ALL08 – BLAM study, Matthew Greenwood presenting on ALL09, Harry Iland presenting on APML5, Andrew Wei presenting on AMLM21 and AMLM23 (for Paula Marlton), and Chong Chyn Chua on the maintenance platform underway in the AMLM22 trial.
  • Robert Weinkove opened the Celebrating Members Networking event, welcoming new members with an inspiring introduction to the ALLG. Accordingly, he challenged every new member to join one or several ALLG working parties as it is the best way to engage with other members with similar research and clinical interests. His message was clear: “Together, we can make a big impact.”
  • Peter Mollee also announced the latest 10, 20 and 30-year ALLG Members, with each individual in attendance receiving a pin for their years of service to the ALLG. View Celebrating Members Presentation, which details new 10, 20 and 30-year ALLG Members.
  • A/Prof Max WolfThe Annual ALLG Scientific Meeting dinner was a wonderful celebration of the lives and contributions of two new ALLG Life Members – Prof Harry Iland and A/Prof Max Wolf. Life Membership of the ALLG recognises a person who has (in the Board’s opinion) made a sustained and significant contribution to the objects of the Company and accepted the Board’s invitation to become a member on this basis. After an engaging and fun video introduction to David Ritchie by Peter Mollee, Prof Ritchie spoke to the 100-strong attendees in detail about how Max Wolf made his impact on the blood cancer community through the ALLG. Then, Peter Browett spoke about how Harry Iland helped establish Australia in the world landscape of blood cancer clinical trials, most notably for his breakthrough in APML treatments.The ALLG will be featuring new articles about the accomplishments of each new Life Member in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

Friday, November 15

  • Meeting Day 2 kicked off early with the Lymphoma Working Party and Transplantation & Cell Therapies breakfast meetings, respectively chaired by Eliza Hawkes, Tara Cochrane and David Ritchie. Minutes will be distributed via email to working party committee members shortly.
  • The early morning scientific sessions were dedicated to Laboratory Science. Chaired by Jake Shortt, the speakers included Kristy Sharplin describing What’s New in the laboratory, Deborah White updating attendees on the LS17 REGALLIA study, Stephen Opat discussing progress on the MAGNOLIA Biomarker Studies, and Dipti Talaulikar outlined the upcoming LS22, which will investigate Waldenström Lymphoma.
  • Prof Steve WesselinghGuest speaker, Prof Steve Wesselingh, provided an excellent and inspiring keynote address. His work as the Executive Director of SAHMRI and as one of the leaders in Australian Science is geared to developing a high-performance health and medical research culture across Australia. Firstly, he described in detail the objectives and results of the updated NHMRC grants funding scheme, and his take is: “Change the incentives, measure what you want.” In his view, this means that no matter what you want to measure in your research, there is a funding scheme available to support innovative and creative health and medical research across all fields. Although the pools of funding may have shifted, with the addition of the MRFF schemes, there is certainly a large funding pipeline for future medical research.The NHMRC’s Investigator Grants scheme offers flexibility for strategic, creative and collaborative research, providing support for talented researchers at all career stages and across all disciplines. The Ideas Grants focus on fresh thinking – based on science rather than an investigator’s track record – and provide opportunities for those with less-developed track records (although the investigator still needs to demonstrate research skills and quality, including feasibility).Prof Wesselingh also described the keys to a high-performance research organisation, discussing his recent time “Researching the Research” and studying high-impact research organisations in the UK. With very few scientific publications describing the qualities of high-performance research, his UK work delivered a new perspective of the “hierarchy” of high-impact research organisations:
    • Tier One: People, Leadership & Culture. To maintain a high-performance environment, organisations must focus on identifying key unique impact characteristics and hiring/keeping the “best” individuals. Organisations must also share a vision that values translation and impact, and instil a culture of common values – accountability, social & ethical values (e.g. health equity), entrepreneurship – and reward performance in a consistent and sustainable way. He offered practical ways in which organisations can identify and attract the “best” with consistent leadership and culture, funding and infrastructure for appropriate for the achievement of the objectives, valuing quality, rewarding impact, developing teams and collaborations, and measuring “payback”.
    • Tier Two: Networks & Infrastructure. To be a consistent high-impact organisation, focus must be placed on establishing collaborations and networks across the organisation at all levels and between the organisation and the broader community. Also, having capacity and engagement across various disciplines (e.g. social science, policy, economics, etc) is critical to the high-performance culture. Infrastructure ranging from buildings and precincts to data, biobanks, registries, and data linkage are critical for success. He later described the importance of consumer engagement at all levels across the development and delivery of studies to achieving high-impact research. If it is not meaningful and helpful for the community, the question should be raised as to why the research is being conducted.
    • Tier Three: Strategy & Scope. Prof Wesselingh described the underpinnings of a high-impact organisations. Performance is based on strategy and funding – in medical research, an organisation needs sound translational strategy to achieve funding which will sustain the organisation. It also requires institutional and research unit practices which incorporate and deliver upon the strategy – what he termed a “lived” strategy. The work of teams within the high-performing organisation is critical – clear objectives for the individuals and teams within the project setting and within the organisation as a whole are important to delivering high-impact research.

    The ALLG staff certainly came away with many key points from Prof Wesselingh’s keynote address and are already actively discussing more ways to improve the high-performance culture of the ALLG.

    One aspect of our performance is ensuring that all ALLG members know what services the ALLG offers – ALLG members may not be aware that the ALLG has several experienced grant writers on staff and offers grant-writing assistance to you at no charge. Please contact Kate Halford, the ALLG’s Partnerships & Fundraising Manager on kate.halford@allg.org.au.

    We hope you left this session with a renewed sense that the ALLG, as your organisation, is a high-performance research organisation that is working consistently to help you deliver high-impact research.

    A copy of Prof Wesselingh’s slides are available upon request from Cara on cara.markovic@allg.org.au.

  • Prof Jon StreffordThe CLL session, chaired by Giles Best for Bryone Kuss and Stephen Mulligan, began with an inspiring talk from international guest speaker, Prof Jonathan Strefford from the University of Southampton in the UK. Prof Strefford reported on the European Molecular Consortium and the lessons from the analysis of UK CLL clinical trials samples. He emphasized how improvements in genomic assays are leading to greater resolution and allowing the identification of sub-clones which appear to be clinically informative of outcomes and survival in CLL. Giles Best then presented the results of CLL05, CLL06 and CLL07.
  • Jelly Beans in the Beaker CompetitionFriday Morning Tea Networking session saw the announcement of the winner of the Jelly Beans in the Beaker competition. The winner of the Lenovo 10-inch tablet was Helen McDermott from Christchurch, NZ. Thank you to all those who made gold coin donations to enter the competition as well as for the Coffee Cart. As a not-for-profit organisation, the ALLG relies on your support to deliver high-impact research.
  • The Transplantation & Cell Therapies sessions saw a “changing of the guard” in the working party chair. David Ritchie has retired from the working party chair position, and Nada Hamad is the new chair and SAC member for transplantation and cell therapies. Nada presented on the National Haplo Sequential Cohort study on behalf of John Moore. Haplo study revisions, including updating the RICS and dose escalation for TBI, were discussed. The ALLG protocol development team will begin working with Nada Hamad and John Moore to accelerate study development. David Curtis presented the BM12 CAST trial update and posed critical questions about why the trial has had such slow participant accrual. The consenting of patients too late in their clinical experience was identified as a key reason for low accrual. Potential solutions were suggested: (1) updating the consent process to identify patients earlier prior to transplant, and (2) opening new sites which see more sibling transplants. Details were also presented regarding the CARTELL trial and cell therapy approaches to tackle GVHD.

From all of us at the ALLG, we hope you had wonderful and productive Scientific Meeting, and we hope to see you in Melbourne in May 2020.

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