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ECTRIMS 2018: Updates on Progressive MS

Which subgroups of progressive MS should be treated?

Dr. Xavier Montalban, professor at the University of Toronto, presented an overview of treatments in progressive multiple sclerosis (PMS), beginning the talk with why drugs in PMS fail.  Firstly, the pathological processes involved in PMS compared to relapsing-remitting MS are different, therefore novel treatments to target the processes in PMS are needed. Second, the patient population that is recruited for the clinical trials are not appropriate to identify the benefits of treatment. Finally, the current outcomes used in clinical trials to determine effects of treatments are not sensitive measures. Based on the evidence collected from PMS clinical trials, there tends to be a better response in people with PMS with prior relapses, rapidly evolving disease, active baseline imaging, younger individuals, shorter disease duration, treatment naïve and lower disability score. For clinical trials in progressive MS to be effective, key questions needs to be answered:

In active PMS, is persistence of relapses or worsening of disease the definition of treatment failure?

In PMS that is not-active, is disability worsening or appearance of relapses the definition of treatment failure?

How long should treatments be administered to evaluate treatment efficacy?

What measures should define an effective treatment?

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ECTRIMS 2018: Risk Factors for multiple sclerosis (MS)

Overview of the growing list of potential risk factors for MS

Dr. Ali Manouchehrinia, Assistant Professor at the Karolinska Institutet, presented an overview of the risk factors for MS. Firstly, he discussed the genetic variants associated with increased risk for developing MS.  To date, there are 233 variants identified that have been linked to MS.  Geographical distribution of MS also hints toward the involvement of the environmental factors in increasing MS risk. Other factors that have also increased MS risk are Epstein-Barr Virus, smoking, increased BMI (particularly in individuals that have high BMI before the age of 20). Finally, Dr. Manouchehrinia concluded the talk by discussing the interaction between genetic and lifestyle factors. Both low vitamin D levels and high BMI and genetics increase the risk of MS. Overall, there is a growing list of environmental and lifestyle factors, and interaction between the two, associated with increased risk of MS.

Salt: Is there evidence to support it as a risk factor in MS?

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Improving cognitive function in MS: A researcher looking to make a difference for people diagnosed with progressive MS

Cognitive impairment, a research priority for the MS Society of Canada, affects a significant proportion of people living with MS.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can cause a reduction in brain size (also called brain atrophy). Research has shown that this atrophy and lesions developed in MS can be linked to the presence of cognitive difficulties. Cognitive difficulties affect up to seventy percent of individuals living with progressive MS, predominantly impacting information processing and speed, learning and memory, executive function and perceptual processing. Also, individuals themselves have voiced cognitive impairment as an area of concern that needs to be addressed.

Five years ago, I traveled around the country and engaged the MS Community (researchers, caregivers, individuals living with MS) to find out what areas of research are important to them—cognition and mental health was one of them!

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3rd Scientific Congress of the Progressive MS Alliance: Making a difference through rehabilitation and Symptom Management (Part 3)

While researchers are forging ahead with great ideas in symptom management and rehabilitation, we also heard about the complexity of factors that affect an individual with multiple sclerosis (MS) that need to be kept in consideration when developing new projects and initiatives. Therefore, in the third and final blog series on the progressive MS Alliance meeting, I will be highlighting fatigue management, understanding how comorbidities impact MS, and the mood and resilience of people living with MS.

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3rd Scientific Congress of the Progressive MS Alliance: Making a difference through rehabilitation and Symptom Management (Part 2)

Taking the lessons learned from stroke research (part 1) and moving forward to develop new projects and programs is important for the advancement of research in rehabilitation and symptom management in progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). For this post, I’ll be highlighting areas that garnered interest at the Progressive MS Alliance meeting such as brain stimulation, robotics, exercise, cognition, and patient perspectives.congress 1

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3rd Scientific Congress of the Progressive MS Alliance: Making a difference through rehabilitation and Symptom Management (Part 1)

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“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” quoted by Aristotle and reiterated by Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a neurologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto and co-chair of the 3rd Scientific Congress of the Progressive MS Alliance.

This quote speaks to the holistic culture of the meeting, which brought together global leaders in the field to assess the challenges of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) research – with a particular focus on rehabilitation and symptom management. With over 220 participants from 16 countries, this was the largest Congress to date for the Alliance. Throughout the week, researchers and clinicians provided their insights on lessons that can be learned from other conditions such as stroke and spinal cord injury, and shared their research on symptom management and rehabilitation – including brain stimulation, robotics, patient perspectives, exercise and cognition, and how they could be applied specifically in MS. Continue reading

Incidence and Prevalence: What do they mean, how new numbers are identified and why they are important?

Incidence and prevalence are two terms that are frequently used in epidemiology but are often mixed up or used incorrectly. Epidemiology is a branch of research that studies the distribution and determinants of health and illness within populations. Data generated from epidemiological research informs public health and can help understand the history of a disease and determine who is at risk of developing a disease. Distinguishing these two terms is important when discussing the patterns, causes, and effects of MS in the population.

What do incidence and prevalence mean?

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