Once more congratulations for the Bart Barlogie Young Investigator Award. You are a well-recognized leader in myeloma field. How did you engage in myeloma research? Who were the instrumental mentors to guide you during your initial steps?
Answer: Thank you so much Stathis, it is a big honor to receive this award that is named after my mentor. I got interested in myeloma research during my fellowship training, my clinic preceptor Dr. Robert Bona was focused on malignant hematology and lab mentor Dr. Zihai Li had a focus on heat shock proteins in the context of immunologic disorders. These two mentors had a big role to play in guiding me towards an academic career. After my fellowship, I joined the Myeloma Institute in Arkansas as an Assistant Professor where my career took off under the mentorship of Dr. Barlogie and his ‘out of the box’ thinking remains a big influence in my approach today. As I transitioned to a leadership role at Levine Cancer Institute in 2013, I looked up to role models like Drs. Sagar Lonial, Vincent Rajkumar, Robert Orlowski, Brian Durie, Ken Anderson, Nikhil Munshi, Rafael Fonseca, Shaji Kumar and Parameswaran Hari for advice and guidance. There are so many great colleagues and peers who have helped me in my career.
What do you have to give as “advice” to other young investigators in myeloma?
When I joined the Myeloma Institute, Dr. Barlogie told me the path to success is to work hard and always be honest. I would modify that advice to ‘ work hard but always pay attention to your family, be honest, be collaborative, be kind to others and to yourself, always keep patients at center of your endeavors and aspire to become the leader you wish you would follow’.
You are a leader in myeloma clinical research. How do you foresee the treatment of myeloma in the next 3-5 years?
There is so much work to be done in the field, what I am most excited about is both long-term disease control and curative strategies we are developing in trials using combinations of immunotherapies and small molecules. I do think we will start going back to fixed duration therapy after achieving sustained MRD negativity for standard risk patients. I also think we will like start intervening early for a subgroup of high-risk smoldering MM patients in a similar fashion to asymptomatic, active MM.