Jeffrey Cohen, MD, director of the experimental therapeutics program at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research at the Cleveland Clinic, is the newly named president of ACTRIMS, the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.
Cohen’s appointment concluded the 2019 ACTRIMS Forum that ran in Dallas, Texas, Feb. 28–March 2. His term will last three years.
Cohen began studying multiple sclerosis (MS) in the 1980s when it was still considered an untreatable disease. Today, 15 disease-modifying treatments are approved for MS, and Cohen said he has “been involved in some way or another” with the development of each of them.
Cohen has worked with ACTRIMS since its founding in 1995. The group is made up of clinicians and researchers across North America who focus on sharing knowledge in hopes of improving MS treatment options, and providing training to early career physicians and scientists. It has counterparts in other areas of the world, including the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS).
During his residency, which began in 1981, Cohen was drawn to neuroscience and immunology, both fields then in their infancies and both notoriously complex. “MS is a field where those two topics intersect,” he told Multiple Sclerosis News Today.
Back then, scientists knew that MS was a “demyelinating disease,” one that leads to the protective myelin sheath surrounding neurons. — like rubber around a wire — to degrade and hamper communication between nerve cells. More recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have demonstrated that the disease not only scars and damages myelin, but also nerve cells themselves.
“When I first started training, MRI had not yet emerged as a test,” Cohen said. “Now that’s one of our most important tests for diagnosing MS and monitoring it.”
He came to the Mellen Center in 1994, just one year after the first disease-modifying treatment, Betaseron (interferon beta 1b, marketed by Bayer HealthCare), was approved for MS. He treats a large population of MS patients there, and was named director of its Experimental Therapeutics Program in 2014. He designs and runs clinical trials for MS and related diseases, while training other specialists in the skills necessary to run MS trials.
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