SAN DIEGO — The third annual forum of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS), to be held here February 1 through 3, will offer cutting-edge research and lectures by “luminaries” in their respective scientific fields, organizers say. MS & Me Media will bring you live coverage!

“We have a powerhouse of expert speakers” for ACTRIMS 2018, program co-chair Benjamin M. Segal, MD, the Holtom-Garrett professor of neurology and director of the MS Center at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.

Themed “Therapeutic Targets in MS: The Frontier and the Future of Disease Modifying Therapy,” the forum stands apart from many traditional medical meetings by offering a singular track of scientific and clinical presentations in an interactive environment, he says in an interview with Medscape.

“More importantly, ACTRIMS Forum is an unusual meeting in that it involves dialogue between basic scientists and others with more clinical or translational orientations. Our meeting is all about experts interchanging research and ideas,” Dr Segal said in the interview. Over the 3 years since the ACTRIMS annual forum has been held, momentum has clearly grown. Registration is up, from 600 at the inaugural meeting to an estimated 1000 this year, and abstract submissions have increased by 30%, he noted.


Emerging Therapeutic Targets

The meeting’s theme reflects expanding knowledge of the many factors and complex pathways involved in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS). While conventional disease-modifying therapies continue to be effective for many patients with relapsing-remitting disease, drugs with unique mechanisms of action are now harnessing recently discovered disease-related factors and are probably even better.

Sessions are divided by topics that address these unique pathways, with speakers taking a deep dive into the science. “The idea is to convey exactly where the state of treatment is, with regard to particular targets, and what the future holds. In all these sessions, we have speakers who are basic scientists and others who are more clinically oriented,” Dr Segal said.

There are separate sessions devoted to the following:

Blood-brain barrier (BBB): Anatomy and physiology, dynamic changes to the BBB on imaging, effects of current disease-modifying therapies on the BBB, and novel adhesion molecules.

Lymphocytes: Role in pathogenesis, B cell–targeting agents, reshaping of the immune system with stem cell transplant, and alemtuzumab’s paradoxical effects on autoimmunity.

Microglia and macrophages: Beneficial and destructive effects during inflammatory demyelinating disease, in vivo imaging of microglial activation, targeting of these factors to promote repair.

Astrocytes: Heterogeneity and contribution to lesion progression and resolution, including neurotoxicity, and their potential role in secondary progressive MS.

Oligodendrocytes: and their precursors: Differentiation and remyelination, novel remyelinating agents.

“Dr Daniel Reich of the NIH [National Institutes of Health] will describe how, with sophisticated imaging, we can visualize changes in the blood-brain barrier, and what this tells us about how it is compromised. These findings could guide future treatments,” Dr Segal commented.

“At the lymphocyte session, we will hear how B cell–depleting agents, such as alemtuzumab, modulate inflammation and infiltrate the central nervous system, and how different subsets correlate with treatment effects.”

“Dr Amit Bar-Or, of the University of Pennsylvania, will describe the effects of stem cell transplant and what happens to the immune repertoire that survives or recovers afterward,” he added. “Is there a correlation between particular cells that are reconstituted and the return of disease activity?”

Particularly interesting, he added, is the finding that astrocytes can assume neurotoxic functions and that at least one drug currently approved — fingolimod — may modulate these astrocytes.

As always, Friday’s “Cutting-Edge Developments” session promises to reveal some exciting findings. Speakers will report on the efficacy of nanocrystalline gold as a remyelinating therapy, genetic risk variants as drivers for astrocyte responses associated with lesion formation, prevention of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy with natalizumab by extended-interval dosing, and more.


Young Investigators Welcomed

ACTRIMS is committed to promoting the work of young investigators in the field of MS. In fact, the first platform presentations feature work by young researchers. From among 220 abstracts submitted for presentation, 7 were selected that are each relevant to the theme of the meeting.

And this year, the Kenneth P. Johnson Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, MD, professor and chairman of the Departments of Neurology at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Multiple Sclerosis, and a past president of ACTRIMS.

The lecture honors the career of Dr Johnson, who was instrumental in clinical trials leading to the approval of the first disease-modifying therapies in MS. More than 200 posters, and several satellite symposia, round out the agenda for ACTRIMS Forum 2018.

So get ready for live coverage from MS & Me Media bringing the latest in MS research directly to the patients impacted by multiple sclerosis. Coverage will be posted to our website, social media, shared in our Facebook forums, and continuing information shared on our radio network through MS & Me Interviews.

Keeping you in the know!