International MDS Working Groups: a model of success to improve diagnosis and treatment in rare diseases: 10-year jubilee of the Austrian MDS platform
The year 2013 marked the 10th anniversary of the Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) Platform of the Austrian Society for Hematology and Oncology. Although there had already been previously scientific contributions to this field, in 2003, the founding members of the platform concluded that combined efforts of all MDS researchers in Austria would promote the outcome and recognition of this work and improve clinical management of MDS patients. To celebrate this anniversary, an educational meeting in November 2013 provided a “state of the art” overview in MDS and was also a good opportunity to analyze the benefits of collaborative work and to plan future projects.
A specific feature of the Austrian MDS platform is its informal character. Each member may propose projects that are discussed within the platform, and centers are free to participate. Another key point is connecting the platform to other MDS collaborative groups. As our experience shows, integration in larger groups such as the German–Austrian–Swiss group or the International Working Group on Prognostic Models offers the opportunity for leading contributions (not only data acquisition) in international projects [ 1 , 2 ]. In contrast, the MDS platform offers a network for projects adequate for small countries, when the critical mass of data leading to meaningful results can be achieved within its local members [ 3 , 4 ].