ASH president: Society is ‘extremely committed’ to continuing advocacy for NIH funding
Roy L. Silverstein, MD, began his 1-year term as ASH president in January.
Silverstein — who will serve in that position through the end of this year — is chairman of the department of medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin. He also serves as associate director of MCW Cancer Center and senior investigator for Versiti Blood Research Institute.
He is recognized for his expertise in platelet and vascular cell biology, as well as clinical nonmalignant hematology and thrombosis.
HemOnc Today spoke with Silverstein about what he hopes to accomplish during his term as president and the ways ASH’s membership can help him and his colleagues succeed and maximize the society’s potential.
Question: What was your reaction upon being selected ASH president?
Answer: I was incredibly honored and humbled to be selected by my peers. I have a long-standing relationship with ASH — I have been involved in committees, editorial roles and other activities for many years. ASH has a warm spot in my heart for what we do and how it helps the community.
Q: What will be your main priorities during your term as president?
A: My priorities are ASH’s priorities. We are a large organization with a lot of different things going on all the time, including training, education, advocacy, helping our members with clinical quality improvement, and promoting science through our journals, meetings, research awards and grants. All of this is based upon the concept that ASH is helping hematologists conquer blood diseases. In this context, we have a set of strategic priorities developed by our volunteer members and our thought leaders in a very careful manner. My charge as president is to make sure that we continue to make progress on those priorities.
I will be spending a fair amount of time this year advocating on behalf of ASH and the hematology community for NIH funding, for funding of a recently passed authorization for the CDC to collect data on patients with sickle cell disease, and to work with CMS on developing innovative models for reimbursing health systems for some of these expensive new therapies that are being developed, such as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy.
Other priorities include the ASH Research Collaborative, a nonprofit that ASH created to focus on the data hub, which will initially house multiple myeloma and sickle cell disease data, and the sickle cell disease clinical trials network.
Another priority for me is focused around venous thrombosis and benign hematology. Venous thromboembolic disorders, a large public health problem, are an important strategic priority for ASH. We have begun rolling out 10 guidelines that we developed around venous thrombosis, and we are supporting the hemostasis and thrombosis clinical and research communities through ASH programs.
Sickle cell disease is a high priority for ASH and for me. We are now at the cusp of major changes in our ability to treat patients with this disease. ASH has put a lot of effort into developing a data hub and clinical trials network, improving access to medical care for patients, and improving the quality of medical programs and global programs around newborn screening.
Q: What research advances are you most excited about?
A: This is an extremely exciting time in hematology because of the research advances being made. Among the most exciting are gene therapies that offer the potential for a cure for certain patients with inherited blood diseases. Second would be new immunotherapies. The field of CAR T-cell therapy is in its infancy and has unlimited potential. Third is the concept of targeted therapies. We are seeing great progress in precision medicine and targeted therapies with hematologic malignancies, particularly with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. We are also seeing a lot of therapies being developed for treating and preventing thrombosis and treating complications of hemophilia. Lastly is the harnessing of big data. How do we accumulate clinical genomic and other types of ‘omic’ data, and how do we use this to define new treatment targets?
Q: What do you consider the greatest challenges in the field that must be overcome?
A: In one word — pipeline. One is the pipeline of talent into our field, particularly in the field of benign hematology in the United States, which is dwindling. We need to develop long-term strategies to deepen and broaden that pipeline so that it is diverse. Second is the pipeline of new agents, and the challenge is to accelerate their delivery from the laboratory to the bedside and implement the best practices for those agents. Third is the big data pipeline, and how we deal with the enormous amount of data generated through genomics and other scientific endeavors, as well as how we integrate that with the clinical data to improve care.
Q: Is there a specific area of practice or policy in which you would like to see ASH become more involved?
A: ASH is extremely committed over the long haul to continuing advocacy for NIH funding. All of these advances I have talked about come from investments the American people have made through the NIH. Another area is sickle cell disease and advocating for better access to care for patients. The third is CAR T-cell therapies and seeing if we can work with CMS and other stakeholders to develop an innovative strategy to cover what can be prohibitive costs of care for patients who need these therapies. ASH also is becoming more involved in quality improvement and developing evidence-based guidelines. The high priority is going to be to get these guidelines into the community and make them accessible in an interactive way that helps clinicians address questions in real-time while caring for patients with hematologic conditions.
Q: How can ASH’s membership help you and the society’s other officers succeed and maximize the association's potential?
A: One of the rewarding parts of my role as an ASH officer during the past 2 years has been to attend a large number of ASH committee meetings. A lot of ASH work is done through committees that are filled with volunteer members and staffed with incredibly bright and engaged staff at the ASH headquarters. I have met a large number of our engaged members and been impressed by the talent pool out there. The ASH membership always steps up when needed, and there is a role for just about anyone who wants to be involved.
Q: What are your expectations for the hematology field for the next 5 and 10 years?
A: One would be the emergence of precision medicine and targeted therapeutics. The second would be the ability to cure inherited blood diseases through stem cell transplants and other therapies. Third is that big data will play a role in advancing the mission of ASH to help hematologists cure hematologic conditions. Fourth is quality improvement. Using evidence-based guidelines developed primarily by ASH and getting them out into the community will drive our ability to improve the quality of care for our patients. – by Jennifer Southall
For more information:Roy L. Silverstein, MD , can be reached at Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 W. Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, WI 53201; email: email@example.com.
Disclosure: Silverstein reports no relevant financial disclosures.