The International Consortium on Acute Leukemia (ICAL) is an international network that seeks to improve the care of patients with acute leukemia.

ASH member and ICAL participant Dr. Torsten Haferlach (MLL Munich Leukemia Laboratory, Munich, Germany) has been active with the ASH International Members Committee since 2018 and is also actively involved with the European Hematology Association. The core of his work lies in the combination of “gold standard” laboratory approaches with cutting-edge techniques for leukemia diagnostics to improve quality and reduce turnaround times. Here he talks about the significance of the program for him and for global hematology and sheds some light on the reasons he volunteers.

ICAL is a critical initiative with the goal of improving diagnostics and treatment in acute leukemia. This is achieved by conducting trials, interlaboratory testing rounds, meetings, and discussions.

Having participated in several ICAL meetings at the ASH Annual Meeting, I have come to recognize the high-quality work of my co-members. I really appreciate hearing about what is working in the consortium and getting an understanding of what might be unmet needs. For leukemia diagnostics, I also realized that in some countries in South America, in order to align with today’s guidelines (e.g., diagnostic guidelines from the World Health Organization and prognostic guidelines such as the European LeukemiaNet recommendations for acute myeloid leukemia), one backbone of modern diagnostics is missing — next-generation sequencing (NGS). Getting backup for this idea and setting it up was the next step. ASH and all of the ICAL members, especially Dr. Peter Valk, were absolutely supportive, and working with them has made turning the NGS concept into a reality a fun experience.

In fact, it’s been a positive experience overall collaborating with ASH and with hematologists in the South American laboratories. It has also been a great experience working with the ICAL and Dr. Valk to make NGS possible with respect to infrastructure and timelines. It’s wonderful to have Illumina acting as a partner in this initiative, from financing the machines and consumables, to helping with transport and garnering local support, since for them, it’s ushering in a new era in an geographic area where they are already active. And this might be one of the challenges we are facing: how to cross borders; how to cope with customs and tax issues; and how to convey machines, especially consumables on dry ice, from Illumina to the respective laboratories in an acceptable timeframe.

So we all have much to learn and will need to be patient as well, but we are already off to a successful start.


HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health Awards ASH Member and CONSA Volunteer Dr. Kwaku Ohene-Frempong

On October 15, 2020, the Assistant Secretary for Health, ADM Brett P. Giroir, MD presented the Assistant Secretary of Health Exceptional Service Medal to Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, MD, recognizing him for his outstanding contributions on behalf of people worldwide living with sickle cell disease. The medal is awarded for exceptional achievement to the cause of public health and medicine and is the highest civilian award from the Public Health Service, though Professor “KOF” is the first “civilian” (non-US uniformed person) to receive the award A key leader of CONSA and national coordinator of the CONSA network in Accra, Ghana, Professor “KOF” has been a long-time champion for pediatric SCD patients in Africa and the United States.His leadership was instrumental in the development of newborn screening in Ghana, and he is a mentor to colleagues throughout Africa working to develop SCD newborn screening and care efforts. Dr. Ohene-Frempong is Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Ohene-Frempong on this significant achievement.


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