Regina McDermott Smyth: Hope across the generations - Bristol Myers Squibb

An early discovery researcher (LEFT) at our Brisbane, CA site selecting samples from engineered cell lines for assay development. Regina McDermott Smyth's (RIGHT) participation in a clinical trial for mavacamten has enhanced her life and given hope to her family with an inherited heart disease.

Hope across the generations

Regina McDermott Smyth's participation in a clinical trial for mavacamten has enhanced her life and given hope to her family with an inherited heart disease.

For generations, a devastating genetic heart condition impacted Regina McDermott Smyth’s family tree. She has attended funerals for cousins, siblings and even her own children, all of whom died suddenly at young ages.  

The cardiovascular deaths in the family led Regina and her surviving siblings to undergo a battery of tests, which revealed that many family members suffer from the most common inherited heart disease: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Later, when grandchildren joined the family, they began to know her as “the tired old grandmom,” Regina said. “I couldn’t go to any of their soccer games. I couldn’t climb the bleachers and watch them play basketball.”

Approximately 1 in 500 people is affected by one of two types of HCM: non-obstructive or obstructive. Both types result in thicker heart walls, but in obstructive HCM, the thicker wall may block or reduce blood flow out of the heart.

Based on her family’s testing, Regina discovered that she passed the gene down to four of her seven children. One of them, her daughter Carolyn, died at age 47,  leaving behind a husband and three children, two of whom have HCM.

Now 73, Regina, who lives with non-obstructive HCM, said she first noticed a shortness of breath in her 20s. In her 30s, Regina tried multiple medications that would work for a time. The shortness of breath was constant, as well as other symptoms that made everyday life difficult.

“I’m so glad the industry is finally making a dent in HCM.”
– Regina

“I was tired. And I would feel like I had this brick in my chest,” she said. “And then sometimes my legs felt like concrete. I’d try to walk to the mailbox, and my legs wouldn’t do it. Or walking on the beach, I’d all of a sudden have two cement legs, and I couldn’t take a step.”

In 2018, Regina’s doctor told her about a clinical trial for Bristol Myers Squibb’s investigational drug mavacamten. Regina was nervous, “but I wanted to help the world and my family. I don’t want anybody else to have to suffer with this if there’s a potential medication that might help,” she said.

In just a few months, she noticed the effects of the medicine. “Before, I couldn’t even unload the dishwasher – I would get so dizzy and lightheaded. Now I can do it,” she said.

She’s now a fixture at her grandchildren’s sporting events. “All of my grandchildren are thrilled. I’m not just a tired old grandmom anymore,” she said.

Mavacamten, Regina said, has given her hope for the future. “I’m so glad the industry is finally making a dent in HCM.”

Bristol Myers Squibb is currently awaiting US Food and Drug Administration approval of mavacamten, which would be the first pharmacologic therapy for symptomatic obstructive HCM that treats the underlying disease. There are currently no therapies available with such a targeted approach. Our scientists are continuing to study mavacamten for patients like Regina with non-obstructive HCM, which is currently in Phase 2 trials.

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2021 Annual Report


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The patient stories shared in this Annual Report depict individual patient responses to our medicines or investigational compounds and are not representative of all patient responses. In addition, there is no guarantee that potential drugs or indications still in development will receive regulatory approval. This Annual Report contains statements about the company’s future plans and prospects that constitute forward-looking statements for purposes of the safe harbor provisions under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ from those indicated as a result of various important factors, including those discussed in the company’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and reports on Form 10-Q and Form 8-K. These documents are available from the SEC, the Bristol-Myers Squibb website or from Bristol-Myers Squibb Investor Relations. In addition, any forward-looking statements represent our estimates only as of the date hereof and should not be relied upon as representing our estimates as of any subsequent date. While we may elect to update forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we specifically disclaim any obligation to do so, even if our estimates change. This Annual Report also contains certain non-GAAP financial measures, adjusted to exclude certain costs, expenses, gains and losses and other specified items. Reconciliations of these non-GAAP financial measures to the most comparable GAAP measures are available on the company’s website at