The IMWG has its roots in the IMF’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), which was formed in 1995. Beginning in 2000, IMF Scientific Advisors met every two years to exchange ideas and collaborate on myeloma research. In addition, from 1994 to 2000, the IMF organized the biennial International Myeloma Workshop, which today draws hundreds, sometimes thousands of participants from around the world.
Sensing a need for a more intimate event that encouraged dialog among experts, the IMF organized the IMWG Summit, which made its debut in 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. “There was some uncertainty in the beginning,” recalls IMF Chairman Dr. Brian Durie, “but the opportunities for interchange among investigators proved to be very popular.”
A five-year plan, he says, was quickly developed. “Where do we want to be in five years? What are the things we can do that will really make a difference? What are the best ways to educate the community?”
To answer these questions with maximum efficiency, a structure was put in place. IMWG members are divided into workgroups. Researchers in each group work together to examine such important topics as frontline therapy, continuous therapy, the role of transplant, genetic risk stratification, renal impairment, and treatment of elderly patients.
Following its successful launch, subsequent IMWG Summits have been held in London (2011), Vienna (2012), Stockholm (2013); in Milan (2014) and Vienna (2015).
During these years, the membership of the IMWG has grown dramatically—along with the influence and stature of the IMWG, as the result of its many publications in scientific journals and guidelines for myeloma treatment and diagnosis.
IMWG co-chair Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar, the Edward W. and Betty Knight Scripps Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, joined in 2004, after reading the organization’s first three papers and finding himself with “an intense desire to be part of this group, and to contribute.”
The fourth paper published by the IMWG was co-written by Dr. Rajkumar and IMF Chairman Dr. Brian G.M. Durie. The topic was uniform response criteria for myeloma and it has become one of the most cited papers in myeloma.
Membership in the IMWG has been “very rewarding” for Dr. Rajkumar, not least for its collaborative nature. He has been part of many research projects with the IMWG that “would not have been possible without the cooperation of numerous investigators.”
“The disease is extraordinarily complex, and no one person can have a full understanding of the ever-growing body of knowledge. By pooling resources, databases, and samples we can achieve far more than we can do alone.”
Dr. Rajkumar values the collective wisdom he can tap into when writing an important paper, such the recent IMWG updated criteria for the diagnosis of multiple myeloma, which appeared in The Lancet. “I received comments from more than 80 of the world’s best experts on developing this document and 34 authors from around the world,” he said.
“We managed to look at almost every paper that was done which pertains to these diagnostic criteria and to any changes we are planning to make, so that any change has had a lot of thought gone into it. It’s not just me. It’s Dr. San Miguel and every one of the 34 authors and the 50-odd people who provided comments that we were not able to name as authors.”
A member of the IMWG since 2010, Ola Landgren, MD, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, agrees. “The International Myeloma Working Group provides a network for collaboration, development of new ideas and the opportunity to move larger questions forward.”
Dr. Landgren’s work under the auspices of the IMWG has included leading a study on second primary malignancies (SPMs) in some patients following myeloma treatment.
Creating, supporting and hosting the important work of the IMWG and its members is a critical element of the IMF’s mission to expand myeloma research and to educate myeloma patients around the world. As Dr. Shaji Kumar of Mayo Clinic noted, “The IMF brings everyone together under one roof, with the common goal of improving outcomes for patients and eventually curing this disease.”
Dr. Rafat Abonour of Indiana University’s Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been a part of the IMWG for more than 10 years. His membership, he said, has given him the ability to exchange ideas with the most talented researchers in his field resulting in improved health outcomes for his patients.
“Myeloma is a complex and relatively rare disease, but I strongly believe a cure is possible,” said Dr. Abonour. “To obtain it, we will need to work together exploring the biology and treatment of the disease. We owe it to our patients to be united in order to realize a cure. The IMWG is a great vehicle to achieve that goal.”