Monthly Archives: October 2015

ECTRIMS 2015 Highlights and General Impressions, Part II

Welcome back to my ECTRIMS 2015 recap. In the previous post I covered some of the crucial research being undertaken to further understand how wellness impacts MS (and vice versa) as well as the effects of MS on social and economic outcomes like workforce participation and emotional wellbeing.

One of the questions I hear a lot is “what are the factors that can put me or my family members at greater risk for MS?” This is a question on a lot of researchers’ minds, and there was no shortage of seminars and poster presentations examining the various risk factors for MS. In this post I summarize the research presented at ECTRIMS on risk factors.


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ECTRIMS 2015 Highlights and General Impressions, Part I

Now that the dust from this year’s ECTRIMS meeting has finally settled, I’ve had the chance to sit back and reflect on my experiences at the meeting and the interesting research that was presented.. As the largest conference singularly devoted to MS in the world, ECTRIMS takes the pulse of MS research and, through the convergence of accumulated data and new ideas, sets the foundation for future advances in our understanding of MS and finding new, effective therapies.

This year’s conference left no stone unturned, covering topics ranging from new diagnostic/prognostic tools and risk factors to cutting-edge treatments and rehabilitation strategies. To summarize the full-range high-quality research studies at ECTRIMS spread across over 1,500 oral and poster presentations would be an impossible feat; instead, over the next few posts I’ll be leaving you with some highlights, including key areas in the research landscape that are up-and-coming over the next few years. The next few posts are inspired by Dr. J Sastre Garriga (Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain) and Dr. Heinz Wiendl (Universitätsklinikum Münster, Münster, Germany), who combed through all of the seminars and posters and presented their top highlights at the closing session.

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Ocrelizumab marks an important milestone in research and treatment for progressive MS

Over 20 years ago, the first disease modifying therapy was approved in Canada for relapsing remitting MS, and since then we have seen 10 more disease modifying therapies be developed and come to market. The advent of therapies has very much changed the landscape in treatment for those who live with MS.

Currently there are no approved therapies for those who live with progressive MS. The presentation at ECTRIMS regarding the experimental monoclonal antibody ocrelizumab showed that treatment significantly slowed progression of disability compared to placebo in a phase III clinical trial involving 732 people with primary progressive MS may very well have the same impact that we saw with the first treatment for relapsing-remitting MS 20 years ago. The presentation was delivered by Dr. Xavier Montalban, who acted as a leader in the clinical trial that included Canadian clinical sites. The evidence he presented provides hope for those living with progressive MS, as he noted that, “this might be what we have been looking for for progressive MS”.

What we heard and witnessed at ECTRIMS is the start of what will most likely be enormous progress in the treatment of those living with progressive MS. It was an exciting day and I look forward to what the future holds!

We bumped into Dr. Amit Bar-Or (McGill University, Montréal, QC) at ECTRIMS and asked him to weigh in on this “game-changing” development in the progressive MS treatment landscape. Dr. Bar-Or – along with colleagues Dr. Jennifer Gommerman (University of Toronto, Toronto, ON) and Dr. Alexandre Prat (Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC)  – heads a $3.6 million grant that was awarded last year by the MS Society and MS Scientific Research Foundation to investigate the role of B cells in MS. Since B cells are the target of ocrelizumab’s actions, Dr. Bar-Or is perfectly positioned to discuss the nuts and bolts of the ocrelizumab clinical trial, how the findings will impact people living with progressive MS, and how the research stemming from his team grant will help us understand B cells and their contribution to progressive MS even better. Watch the video below to get this exclusive perspective on ocrelizumab.

Encouraging results presented at ECTRIMS Late Breaking News session

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Perhaps the most anticipated session at ECTRIMS is “Late Breaking News”, which features a selection of exciting and newly released clinical trial results as well as data from preclinical studies. This year’s conference has been notable for launching a number of late-breaking results that have been described by numerous respected MS researchers as “game-changers” in the field of MS with the potential to offer new, effective, and accessible treatments for people living with different forms of MS. Read on to see what everyone’s talking about at this year’s ECTRIMS conference.

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The need to preserve brain health among people with MS leads to development of recommendations for change

Today the research team met with Dr. Anthony Traboulsee here at ECTRIMS to talk about brain health. Dr. Traboulsee is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, Director of the MS and NMO Clinic at University of British Columbia Hospital, and MS Society of Canada operating grant recipient. We asked Dr. Traboulsee to provide a Canadian perspective on a newly published report from MS Brain Health, titled “Brain Health: Why time matters in multiple sclerosis”.

The report is an evidence-based international consensus that provides guidelines for early intervention, frequent monitoring, and timely access to the appropriate treatments, all in the context of maximizing brain health and pursuing a long term healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Traboulsee emphasized the idea that “time matters”; in other words, making sure that treatment is available to people living with MS as early as possible, and that decisions around what treatment are best for a person living with MS should be made in a collaborative, open-dialogue way between clinicians and patients. He stressed that adopting a healthy lifestyle plays an enormous role in maximizing brain health alongside medications, particularly exercising both the body and the mind and avoiding risk factors for MS.

To see some of the highlights from our conversation, watch the video below.

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!


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Over 8,000 people expected in Barcelona for the world’s largest MS conference

This week, synergism, knowledge exchange and training in the MS field will take place as more than 8,000 people from around the world will come together for the 31st Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS). The last time Barcelona hosted the ECTRIMS congress was in 1992, when only 250 people were in attendance. The immense growth in interest and involvement in MS research and treatment is truly encouraging, and brings hope to those affected by MS.

ECTRIMS is not only about presenting scientific data, it is also about collaboration that transcends geographic borders and disciplines, training the next generation of MS professionals, and discussing ways to improve practices and policies related to the diagnosis and treatment of people living with MS. This year’s program includes a number of important initiatives, such as a patient day which took place earlier in the week and involved people with MS sharing their personal experiences and priorities for research, and a special session devoted to MS nursing.

Some of the topics that we will hear more about throughout the week include personalized therapy –regarded as one of the biggest unmet needs in MS research and care – biomarkers, MS prevention and risk reduction, clinical trial updates, neuroprotection and remyelination, MS and reproduction, and comorbidities.

Canadian researchers, many of which are funded by the MS Society of Canada, are involved in every aspect of the conference; trainees will present the latest evidence gathered from their research, senior researchers will serve as mentors during teaching sessions, and the MS community’s most seasoned MS experts will be actively engaged in meetings such as those of the Progressive MS Alliance and Canadian Network of MS Clinics. As the week unfolds, the research team will be delivering updates from one of the most important and impactful MS research meetings. Follow me on Twitter (@Dr_KarenLee) for  live updates, and check the blog for daily recaps!