ACTRIMS Forum 2020 Puts Spotlight on 'Networks in MS'

Nancy A. Melville

February 18, 2020

The fifth annual Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2020 gets underway in West Palm Beach, Florida, next week with 3 days of rigorous scientific and clinical research, in-depth lectures, and discussion, all centered around the theme of "Networks in MS."

Dr Jeffrey Cohen

"The ACTRIMS Forum is unique among the major MS meetings in offering a single track focusing on a different theme each year," ACTRIMS president Jeffrey A. Cohen, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

"This year's theme, Networks in MS, encompasses a wide range of topics, including molecular, cellular, and social networks," said Cohen, who is the director of experimental therapeutics at the Cleveland Clinic's Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research in Ohio.

The lineup of presentations along those lines will run the gamut from novel technologies and biomarkers to predictive models and potential therapeutic targets.

"We think the variety of talks will have something for everyone, not only in one's area of interest but also in other topic areas," Cohen said.

"That is one the goals of the meeting — to stimulate interactions between investigators and clinicians in different disciplines, to learn what other people are doing."

Activities will kick off with important pre-meeting symposiums, including the North American Imaging in MS (NAIMS) and the International MS Visual System (IMSVISUAL) Joint Symposium.

"This joint pre-symposium brings together experts in the vision and imaging fields, which share similar tools and modes of analysis," Tanuja Chitnis, MD, ACTRIMS Program Committee co-chair and director of the Partners Pediatric MS Center at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, told Medscape Medical News.

Subjects to be highlighted during the session will include "Retinal Ganglion Cell Layer Thickness for Risk Stratification in Early MS," and "Imaging Correlates of Axonal Damage in MS."

Research Highlights

Among the numerous sessions focusing on the latest in MS research during the meeting will be the Groundbreaking Abstracts session on February 28, featuring novel insights in six cutting-edge abstracts on issues including the cellular underpinnings of neuroinflammation in MS, findings from the randomized controlled "N-MOmentum Trial Of Inebilizumab For Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder," and the role of metabolic abnormalities in progressive MS.

As part of the commitment by ACTRIMS to support young researchers in the field, the "Emerging Concepts in MS" session on February 27 will feature the best in research from young investigators, with topics ranging from "Depression in MS is Associated with Worsening Neuroperformance, Relapses, and New Brain Lesions," to "Nulliparity or Early Menopause are Associated with Earlier Evolution of Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in Women."

And the evolving insights regarding the hot topic of the influence of the microbiome on the immune and central nervous systems will be discussed in the session "Microbial Networks and Interactions with the CNS," with speakers including Howard L. Weiner, MD, founder and director of the Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center at the Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General Hospitals in Boston, and Ellen Mowry, MD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

"In a highly anticipated talk [in the microbiome session], Dr Weiner will discuss the microbiome as a therapeutic target," Chitnis said. "As well, the role of dietary interventions [presented by Mowry] is an important topic for clinical care."

A session on Network Analysis Applied to MS will be devoted to cellular and genomic datasets and what they are demonstrating about MS pathobiology, in addition to the potential to identify novel therapeutic MS targets.

The session, held February 28, will also feature a presentation focusing on the all-important "Social Networks in MS and Related Diseases," given by neurologist and network scientist Amar Dhand, MD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University.

Lectures Delve Into MS Discoveries

This year's keynote address, the annual Kenneth P. Johnson Memorial Lecture (named for the founder of ACTRIMS), will be given by Peter A. Calabresi, MD, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center, who will discuss his team's discovery of a possible link between severe damage and C3 and C1q gene variants.

The findings could be key in preventing disease progression and improving the treatment of MS and other neurodegenerative diseases, Calabresi said in a press statement.

Dr Peter Calabresi

"While there are many immune-modulating therapies for relapsing and inflammatory forms of progressive MS, there is an unmet need for therapies that target noninflammatory mechanisms of tissue injury," he said.

"Complement inhibition and suppression of inflammatory oligodendrocyte precursor cells are novel approaches that may directly address mechanisms of brain injury involved in progression of MS," Calabresi added.

Francisco Quintana, PhD

And the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) Barancik Presentation will be given by Francisco J. Quintana, PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University, whose work focuses on th e characterization of signaling pathways that control the activity of the immune system and inflammation in MS, as well as environmental factors that influence disease activity

Quintana recently completed what is so far the largest single-cell analysis of CNS resident cells in MS and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) models, which is expected to have a significant impact on MS research.

In addition to the lectures and research sessions, attendees can also view approximately 300 posters on the latest in MS research that will be showcased in two sessions. Additionally, a host of mentorship opportunities will be available for trainees and junior faculty pursuing careers in MS research or clinical practice.

Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2020. West Palm Beach, Florida. February 27-29, 2020.

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