Alicia Ault

May 27, 2016

Cell-based therapies — and the role T and B cells play in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) — are a few of the cutting-edge topics on the agenda at the upcoming Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) 2016 Annual Meeting.

The meeting, being held June 1 to 4 in National Harbor, Maryland, brings together physicians, scientists, researchers, nurses, rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists, social workers, and others involved in caring for patients with MS and trying to unlock the mysteries of the disease.

The Consortium, celebrating its 30th anniversary, has more than 200 member centers in the United States and Canada, representing 10,000 healthcare professionals who provide care for more than 200,000 individuals with MS and their families.

This year, CMSC expects some 2000 attendees, the organization's chief executive officer, June Halper, MSN, APN-C, MSCN, told Medscape Medical News.

The meeting will be heavy on networking and educational programming, but there will also be platform and poster presentations of some 400 abstracts, including 5-year data on alemtuzumab in patients with active relapsing-remitting MS from the CARE-MS II study and phase 3 efficacy data on ocrelizumab in primary progressive MS.

Midway through the opening day, attendees will get a taste of a vexing topic through the John F. Kurtze Memorial Lecture, "Do Relapses Really Matter?" Fred D. Lublin, MD, the Saunders Family Professor of Neurology and director of the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, will give the talk.

"How relapses influence disease worsening and clinical outcomes in MS over the long term continues to be debated, and accurate ways to determine what constitutes a relapse in MS and the severity of relapses have been lacking," said Dr Lublin in the CMSC program. His lecture "will provide insight on how with emerging efficacy data, MS care professionals can begin to re-evaluate what is an 'acceptable' relapse rate," he said.

An Immunology Focus

The meeting will also feature a major research symposium, "which may even lead to a monograph after the meeting," Corey C. Ford, MD, chair of the CMSC program committee, told Medscape Medical News.

That symposium, "How T Cells and B Cells Work Together," will be led by Anne H. Cross, MD, Manny and Rosalyn Rosenthal-Dr. John Trotter MS Center Chair in Neuroimmunology at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and Francisco J. Quintana, MD, associate professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

They and several other speakers will review basic and clinical aspects of how T cells participate in MS pathogenesis and response to therapy.

"It will be a sophisticated, high-science symposium," said Dr Ford, who is director of the Multiple Sclerosis Specialty Center at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

But, he added, the symposium should also be of interest to anyone "intimately involved in treating MS with drugs that affect B and T cells."

Attendees will have a chance to learn about progress on the potential of stem cells for both slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage. The session will be chaired by Michael Racke, MD, a neurology professor at the Ohio State University, who is known for his research in immunology and MS. A centerpiece will be a presentation on 5-year follow-up data from the HALT MS clinical trial.

Another talk, led by Andrew D. Goodman, MD, chief of the neuroimmunology unit and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Rochester, New York, will focus on oligodendrocyte precursor cell transplant for MS.

CAM, Marijuana, and Vitamin D

Each year the CMSC convenes a session on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and 2016 is no different. "It's to update and educate people about what their patients are asking about," said Dr Ford.

Many patients with MS use alternative therapies or adopt lifestyle or dietary changes that can be beneficial — but may also be harmful. Often, clinicians do not have time to discuss these alternative approaches. The 3-hour session this year aims to provide evidence-based reviews of many of the approaches and provide strategies for addressing them in clinical practice.

It will be chaired by Allen C. Bowling, MD, PhD, physician associate at the Colorado Neurological Institute and clinical professor of neurology at the University of Colorado, Denver, and he will lead a talk on MS-relevant aspects of medical marijuana, popular diets and dietary supplements, and alcohol use.

Another talk will give an in-depth review of tobacco smoking and MS, and the two final lectures will provide updates on research on vitamin D and the gut microbiome.

Dr Ford and Ms Halper have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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