Visions of the Future

In our January issue, new ASH Clinical News Editor-in-Chief David Steensma, MD, reflected on the reputation of the year 2020, a date frequently used for wild futuristic predictions. Although these predictions are mostly dystopian, Dr. Steensma sees hope in recent scientific progress. Here, Kanti Rai, MD, expresses a similar optimism, tempered with caution.

I have been an admirer of Dr. Steensma’s for many years. I love his writings and am in awe of his scholarship, his ability of making complex points, and his talent of accomplishing that using simple words and sentences. His most recent Editor’s Corner in the January 2020 issue (“2020 Visions”) is case in point. Dr. Steensma, appropriately, assures us that, despite somewhat grave predictions for the year 2020, they might most likely be dystopian. Evidence abounds that is both frightening but also points to hope.

For example, in the Pulling Back the Curtain profile in the same issue, Jennifer Lycette, MD, cited the paradigm-changing discovery of imatinib as a reason she chose a career in hematology. Dr. Lycette, perhaps, has numerous colleagues who also were similarly influenced.

Unfortunately, I must differ with Dr. Steensma on one point. He recalled that, when he was last on inpatient leukemia service, not a single patient with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) was receiving 7+3 induction therapy. Dr. Steensma is correct: There indeed have been a few new drugs approved by the FDA to treat AML, and those drugs are targeting mutations observed in some patients with AML. That may be reason enough to celebrate. However, let us not get overly excited. The overall outlook for the majority of patients with AML continues to remain rather dismal.

Still, I thank Dr. Steensma for pointing out that we all will be better off if 2020 rates to be one of Hegel’s “blank pages”!

Kanti Rai, MD
Northwell Cancer Institute
New Hyde Park, NY