Chief Research Officer, National MS Society
I’m excited to be here in Lyon, France, with about 7,000 other researchers and clinicians for the world’s largest scientific meeting focused on MS. This phenomenal gathering of scientists is organized each year by ECTRIMS, or the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.
Most of the research summaries or abstracts, of the nearly 1,400 presentations to be given over the next five days have already been released. You can find them on the ECTRIMS 2012 Website.
This is a week full of opportunities, first of which is to take in some of the newest, most cutting edge MS research. I’m also looking forward to reading ECTRIMS blog posts from Julie Stachowiak, PhD, a Science/Medical writer who has a popular column on about.com and is a regular blogger on the Society’s site, as well as viewing video updates throughout the week from Kate Milliken, an internationally known video producer. Kate and Julie both live with MS and bring that important perspective to their work. In addition, this year we are partnering with the MS Society of Australia and MS Society of Canada on this project to further expand our reach throughout the international MS community. You can also follow the Society’s research team on Twitter throughout the week, as we’ll be tweeting live from the conference.
For my part, I thought I’d give you a sample of just a few themes I look forward to seeing and discussing this week. It’s important to keep in mind that many of these early results often come right from the labs and haven’t yet been fully peer reviewed, the way they would be if they were being published in a medical or scientific journal.
Emerging Therapies & Alternative Treatment Strategies
We’re likely to learn more details about current and emerging therapies this week. The one that’s farthest along is oral BG-12, which is now being reviewed by the U.S. FDA for marketing approval. There will be other presentations from clinical trials that target immune activity, largely in relapsing MS.
But I’m also looking forward to seeing presentations related to clinical trials in progressive forms of MS. One is reporting interim results of a clinical trial of a compound called MIS416, which is being tested in New Zealand. This is being supported by the National MS Society’s Fast Forward initiative. Another one I’m waiting to see reports on is a clinical trial from Denmark that tested whether natalizumab (also known by the trade name Tysabri®) can impact progressive MS.
At ECTRIMS this year there are 20 presentations that relate to studies of CCSVI and MS. I’m interested to find out what people are learning about how often this phenomenon is seen in people living with MS and what it might mean in the future.
This week researchers will be sharing more of their findings related to how a person’s genetic makeup as well as things encountered in the environment – like exposure to viruses, or cigarette smoke, or sunlight and vitamin D, influence whether a person will develop MS.
Since I’m a brain researcher by training and experience, I’m always keen on studies that focus on trying to protect or repair the nervous system. There are several studies reporting on the use of adult stem cells from a person’s own blood. These cells, called mesenchymal stem cells, might reduce immune attacks and also foster myelin repair.
There is going to be an interesting presentation on how an antioxidant therapy, called lipoic acid, seems to be able to protect from neurological damage in mice. Based on early positive results in people, the National MS Society is supporting a clinical trial of lipoic acid at Oregon Health & Science University to see if it can protect the nervous system from harm.