Chief Research Officer, National MS Society
My journey in the MS Movement began almost 20 years ago with a National MS Society funded fellowship to study myelin at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As I’ve reflected on this journey since becoming the Society’s Chief Research Officer, I’ve been struck by how much has changed in MS research over the last two decades – how much has been accomplished to help people continue to move their lives forward. I’ve also become more acutely aware of the need to do more, for more people. MS is a complex disease – and now more than ever, researchers are working together to address those complexities head on.
A compelling and inspiring example of the momentum we’ve gained over the last twenty years is the joint congress of European and Americas Committees for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS / ACTRIMS). I was thrilled to be in Amsterdam last month with 7,000 researchers who gathered to share their findings, get new ideas, and find new collaborators. It’s the largest conference of its kind worldwide, focused solely on research aimed at stopping MS, restoring lost function, and ending MS forever.
If you followed any of the blogging or media coverage from the meeting, you’ll likely know there were more than 1,100 presentations on research and clinical care. I wish I could say I saw even half of them, but many ran simultaneously, so I relied on a terrific team of staff and volunteers to fill me in. We’ve just posted a summary of the exciting research shared at ECTRIMS / ACTRIMS. If you missed Julie Stachowiak’s insightful research updates from the conference, you can read them HERE.You can also view video interviews of select researchers on our YouTube Channel.
Some of the exciting things aimed at stopping MS include:
- First results from 3 late-phase clinical trials of new treatments – they include new oral options, and also therapies that are given infrequently. If they are found to be safe and beneficial, some of these treatments may become available in 2012 and 2013.
- Progress toward more individualized approaches to treating MS, or “personalized medicine.” The idea is to find imaging technology or biomarkers that might predict a person’s response to a therapy, or predict their disease course, to help with treatment decisions.
In the restoring category:
- Approaches to rehabilitation and exercise were presented for troubling symptoms like pain, cognitive issues, fatigue and tremor.
- Many new findings related to CCSVI are intriguing. While we don’t yet know the full story, there is exciting research underway in this area.
What about ending this disease forever?
- New information about how our intestines influence immune activity could open up new doors to understanding and treating MS. And there is a lot being learned about other risk factors like genes, vitamin D and viral triggers. We’re supporting a new clinical trial to test whether vitamin D supplements, added to a standard ongoing therapy, can reduce MS severity.
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Don’t take my word for it – check it out yourself. Read our summary, and the conference abstracts on the Congress Website to learn more, and check back in to the blog in the coming months as we explore what the latest cutting-edge research means to those living with MS.