Update from ECTRIMS 2015: Day 2

It’s the second day of ECTRIMS 2015, and scientific seminars are in full swing – in fact, there are so many important topics being featured that there are four different sessions going on at any one time, making it impossible to go to every lecture. It’s truly a testament to how the pace of research has sped up so incredibly since the last ECTRIMS conference in Barcelona in 1992.

In this post I’ll be sharing just some of the highlights the research team picked out from today’s lectures, with more to come soon!


Safety Concerns and Risk Management

  • Dr. Per Sorensen (Danish Multiple Sclerosis Center, Copenhagen, Denmark) gave the state of the union about safety concerns and risk management of MS therapies, emphasizing that treatment with disease modifying therapies (DMTs) should be tailored to each individual to minimize the risk of serious side effects from treatment as much as possible.
  • Dr. Christoph Heesen (Institute of Neuroimmunology and MS Research, Hamburg, Germany) talked about how establishing a shared decision process between people living with MS and their clinicians, including proper communication and managing perceptions, has an enormous impact on how people living with MS perceive and tolerate risk of serious side effects with their treatments.
  • Dr. Ilya Kister (New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY) compared relapse rates and disability progression in people living with MS who discontinued their DMTs (DMT stoppers) since their condition was stable to those who continued on therapy (DMT stayers). The team found that DMT stoppers had an increased risk of disability progression, although unexpectedly, they tended to also have a decreased risk of relapse compared to DMT stayers.
  • A team led by Dr. Jodi Haartsen (Box Hill Hospital, Melbourne, Australia) established and studied the effectiveness of a multi-drug safety module to track treatment safety outcomes, particularly low white blood cell counts in response to treatment. The study showed that this module can be an effective tool that allows clinicians to identify patients who are at a higher risk for serious side effects.

Genetics and the Environment

  • A Swedish population-based case control study led by Dr. Lars Alfredsson (Institute of Environmental Medicine, Stockholm, Sweden) investigated the impact of exposure to organic solvents (such as certain paints, printing inks, agricultural products, etc.) and smoking on MS risk in genetically susceptible individuals.  The study found that subjects exposed to smoking and organic solvents carrying those genetic risk factors had a relatively higher risk of developing MS.
  • Drs. Philip De Jager (Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA) and Stephen Sawcer (University of Cambridge, Cambridge UK) discussed in vivid detail some of the cutting-edge genetic data mining techniques their teams have used to map out genes that determine susceptibility to MS and figure out which ones work together. This important research allows them to identify common points that could be targeted for future MS prevention strategies.
  • MS Society of Canada-funded research Dr. Helen Tremlett (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC) used the rich dataset from the Nurse’s Health Study to examine the link between sun exposure and MS over the life course, including timing of exposure and potential for sun avoidance. The results of the study confirmed the growing consensus that low exposure to ultraviolet-B radiation over the life course is a risk factor for MS; importantly, she found that people living with MS later in life in particular tended to avoid the sun, which could impact their overall vitamin D status and health.

Hot Topics 2: MS Care 3.0

This session put the spotlight on personalized therapies and new tools that empower people living with MS to take greater ownership over their condition

  • Dr. Alessandra Solari (Fondazione Istituto Neurologico C. Besta, Milan, Italy) discussed some of the pros and cons of patient decision aids (PDAs), tools that allow people living with MS and their health care team to work together to make health care decisions based on both clinical evidence and individual values and needs.
  • Dr. Mathias Mäurer (Caritas Krankenhaus Bad Mergentheim gGmbH, Bad Mergentheim, Germany) discussed the results from a randomized controlled trial examining internet-based interventions (including online consultations, web-based consultations and online therapeutic software) on physical activity, quality of life and fatigue in people living with MS. While physical activity and fitness improved, adhering to the program in the long term proved to be a challenge, prompting the need to refine web-based interventions further.
  • An online fatigue management program for people living with MS was presented by Dr. Jana Poettgen (University Medical Centre Hamburg Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany), including results from a randomized controlled trial that tested how such a program can reduce fatigue in people living with MS. The trial showed that this fully automated, web-based program was effective in significantly reducing fatigue as well as showing potential for improving anxiety and cognitive function, offering hope for accessible and low-cost alternatives to cognitive behavioural therapy for people living with MS.

Stay tuned as we bring you more updates from ECTRIMS 2015.

Categories Research

National vice-president, research, past MS researcher, and PhD in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from University of Ottawa. Leads the MS Society's research program to find the cure for MS and improve the quality of life for people affected by the disease.

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