Patricia Silva, PhD, director of science content —

Patrícia holds a PhD in medical microbiology and infectious diseases from the Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands, and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisbon, Portugal. Her work in academia was mainly focused on molecular biology and the genetic traits of infectious agents such as viruses and parasites. Patrícia earned several travel awards to present her work at international scientific meetings. She is a published author of several peer-reviewed science articles.

Articles by Patricia Silva

#MSParis2017 – Ocrevus Improves Relapsing MS Patients’ Vision Better Than Interferon, Trials Show

Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) improved the vision of people with relapsing multiple sclerosis better than the widely used therapy interferon beta-1a, according to clinical trial findings presented at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris. Dr. Laura Balcer of the department of neurology at New York University made the presentation, titled “Effect…

#MSParis2017 – Researchers Disagree on Feasibility of Using Disease-modifying Therapies in RIS Patients

Radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS) is a rare and relatively recent condition in which people have multiple sclerosis (MS)-like brain and spinal cord lesions without showing disease activity. But since the establishment of the RIS diagnosis, researchers have not reached an agreement on whether these patients should receive MS disease-modifying therapies.

#MSParis2017 – Lemtrada and Tysabri More Efficient Than Older Injectables in Preventing SPMS Onset, Study Finds

Sanofi Genzyme‘s Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) and Biogen’s Tysabri (natalizumab) are more effective in preventing conversion to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) compared to older injectable drugs, researchers from the University of Cambridge in the U.K. reported at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting Oct. 25-28 in Paris. The…

#MSParis2017 – MOG-associated Demyelination Can Be Treated with Steroids, but Maintenance Is Required

People with a demyelinating disease associated with antibodies against a myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), most often develop episodes of optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) that can be treated with corticosteroids, according to data presented today at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting from Oct. 25-28 in Paris. MOG antibody-associated demyelination is a…

#MSParis2017 – Biogen to Focus on Real-world Data from Range of Efforts to Understand MS

In its work on multiple sclerosis (MS), Biogen has adopted a comprehensive approach that ranges from  drug development to the exploration of real-world data and digital markers of disease. The company will showcase these efforts at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris on October 25–28. Among its more than 80 presentations at the meeting are updates from its collaboration with Verily and Brigham and Women’s Hospital on using digital sensors that gather data on MS patients between physician visits. Biogen will also share data on the possibility of using such biomarkers to help neurologists in diagnosing and following MS patients — offering information that could potentially help them in making treatment decisions given the variability of the disease in MS patients. The company is also involved in a collaboration with 10 MS centers that aims to generate data collected during routine care. The MS PATHS study includes data from physical examinations, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and biological samples. A third and similar project — the Big Multiple Sclerosis Data (BMSD) Network —  is merging data from five MS registries, holding prospective information on nearly 140,000 patients. Taken together, these large collections of high-quality, real-world data will help researchers better understand the disease, and so, increase the potential of new treatment discoveries, Biogen says. The company is also working to discover and develop biomarkers that are not digital that may also advance the understanding of MS and its treatment. One such marker is neurofilament light, which signals damage to neuronal axons. Biogen will share data on how this marker changes over time in MS patients. Among presentations focusing on treatment development, Biogen will highlight new efforts with opicinumab . The treatment — intended to repair damage by triggering remyelination — failed to reach it primary goal in the Phase 2 SYNERGY trial earlier this year. Still,  data indicated that some trial participants did respond to the treatment. At ECTRIMS, Biogen will present an analysis of the SYNERGY data that identifies factors — including specific MRI features — that may be linked to a treatment response.  

#MSParis2017 – Sanofi to Present Long-term Data on Lemtrada and Aubagio Use

New data on how Lemtrada and Aubagio perform in a real-world setting will be the focus of Sanofi Genzyme when the company showcases its research at the upcoming 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris this week. Researchers will also share information about the safety of a new investigational therapy, GLD52 (GZ402668), currently in a Phase 1 safety study. The TOPAZ study is one of the main data sources for the upcoming presentations. The study, which follows relapsing MS patients who participated in the CARE MS-I and CARE MS-II extension study , is a rich source of information on long-term outcomes. Researchers will share various aspects of disease outcomes and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from patients followed up to seven years, with some presentations focusing solely on those who switched from treatment with interferon beta-1a. Among the Lemtrada highlights are findings demonstrating that Lemtrada does not appear to trigger birth defects. Another presentation compared Lemtrada to Genentech’s Ocrevus using a model that evaluated both the cost and effectiveness of the two drugs. The analysis suggests that Lemtrada more effectively treated relapsing MS and was also linked to lower costs over a 20-year period. Aubagio studies also focused on long-term patient data, including in people with progressive forms of relapsing MS. Data from the Phase 3 TEMSO , TOWER , and the TEMSO extension showed that Aubagio stabilized disability progression in these patients over nearly a decade. Other presentations homed in on Aubagio’s ability to slow brain tissue loss and improve cognitive outcomes. Finally, Sanofi Genzyme shared initial data on its investigational antibody GLD52. The treatment is an updated form of Lemtrada, which scientists believe gives rise to fewer and milder infusion-related reactions. Data from the Phase 1 study , so far indicated that this might indeed be the case, as no severe reactions occurred in the 44 progressive MS patients in the trial. For a complete list of Sanofi Genzyme's presentations at the meeting, visit this link.

#MSParis2017 – Alkermes to Give Updates on ALKS 8700 Studies at ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting

Alkermes will showcase its work in developing a treatment that harnesses the effect of Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) for relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS), while lowering the risk of stomach problems at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting this month in Paris. The investigational drug, ALKS 8700, uses the same mechanism of action as Tecfidera. By building the molecule in a different way, however, the company expects it will show better tolerability. Once in the body, dimethyl fumarate turns into monomethyl fumarate (MMF), the molecule that actually impacts MS disease processes. But before giving rise to MMF, dimethyl can cause side effects in users, particularly gastrointestinal. In fact, stomach problem were what caused people in Tecfidera Phase 3 trials to stop the treatment. Alkermes uses a so-called prodrug approach to try to overcome this problem. By attaching a different compound to MMF — which breaks away from the molecule once in the body —  it is possible to deliver MMF with lesser gastrointestinal side effects, Phase 1 study data indicate. At the meeting, the company will present two posters on two clinical trials exploring ALKS 8700 in patients with relapsing-remitting MS. The first presentation, will describe a Phase 3 trial that aims to compare ALKS 8700 to Tecfidera in about 420 patients. The trial is primarily concerned with the drug’s safety, and will measure the occurrence and impact of gastrointestinal side effects in the two treatment groups. The presentation will only include descriptions of patients characteristics and study design, as outcomes are yet to be analyzed. Patients who complete the Phase 3 trial will be eligible to continue in an ongoing open-label, long-term safety study, called EVOLVE-MS-1, covered in the company’s second presentation. By March 3, 2017, the study had enrolled 543 patients. In addition to describing patient characteristics, researchers will present the rates of discontinuation caused by gastrointestinal adverse events within one month of starting the treatment.

#MSParis2017 – TG Therapeutics’ Ublituximab Depletes Harmful B-cells and Lowers MRI Lesions, Trial Shows

TG Therapeutics’ ublituximab nearly eradicated a type of immune B-cell believed to be involved in multiple sclerosis, according to a Phase 2 clinical trial. The result was that none of the patients had a relapse during the first six months of the trial, which is continuing, researchers said. In addition, ublituximab reduced the brain and spinal cord lesions of the relapsing MS patients involved in the trial and prevented new ones from forming. The company will present the interim trial results in three poster presentations at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris, Oct. 25-28. Meanwhile, researchers will continue to study the effectiveness of ublituximab, a B-cell-depleting antibody, versus a placebo, for another six months. The trial is being held at several U.S. medical facilities. Participants receive two initial infusions of ublituximab or a placebo on day 1 and 15 during the first 28 days. After this initial period, those in the placebo-group are also given ublituximab and followed for 52 weeks. A key trial finding was that over the initial 24 weeks of the trial, the treatment nearly wiped out a type of B-cell known as CD20 that scientists believe is involved in the development of MS. Only 1 percent of the B-cells remained after a month. While helpful immune T-cell numbers dropped slightly after the first ublituximab infusion, they bounced back quickly. Researchers also reported a reduction in patients' magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) lesions, with no new inflammatory lesions appearing during the six months. So far, none of the trial participants has had a serious adverse event. Most of the adverse events were mild or moderate and related to the infusions. The trial also demonstrated that speeding up infusions did not increase infusion-related reactions. The speed-up results indicated that — if proven effective and safe — ublituximab will be more convenient for patients than B-cell-depleting drugs that require infusions stretching over several hours.

Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Revises MRI Guidelines

The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers has updated guidelines for using magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate people suspected of having multiple sclerosis. Doctors use the MRI guidelines not only to diagnose MS but also to track treatment results. A task force is reviewing the new guidelines before they're published. The working document is called  "Revised Guidelines of the CMSC MRI Protocol for the Diagnosis and Follow-up of MS." The task force, composed of neurologists, radiologists and imaging scientists experienced in MS, met in January 2017 to revise the guidelines. They also updated information about the situations for which standardized brain and spinal cord MRI scans should be used. One change is a recommendation that gadolinium, a contrast agent in scans, be used cautiously. The previous update, published in 2015, included no constraints on the use of gadolinium-based contrast agents. But soon after publication, information emerged showing that gadolinium, although not toxic, accumulates in the brain. This prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recommend limiting the use of gadolinium to “appropriate clinical circumstances.” To mirror the increased awareness of gadolinium deposits, the new guidelines say: “While there is no known central nervous system toxicity, these agents should be used judiciously, recognizing that gadolinium continues to play an invaluable role in specific circumstances related to the diagnosis and follow-up of individuals with MS.” Since 2009, the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers has addressed a number of other issues. One is encouraging the use of three-dimensional MRI for brain scans. Another is developing protocols for monitoring severe optic nerve inflammation and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, a brain disease caused by a virus. The guidelines have been revised to recommend the specific timing of scans for monitoring PML. The update also includes recommendations for the timing of scans on patients receiving disease-modifying drugs. Since 2009, the guidelines have included recommendations on scans of radiologic isolated syndrome, a condition where MS-like MRI lesions are present without symptoms. And they have included provisions on the value of using MRI changes to evaluate treatment effectiveness. The centers' goal "is to standardize the MRI protocol and make these recommendations a useful guideline for neurologists, neuroradiologists, and related healthcare professionals during initial evaluations and during follow-up of patients with MS, and ultimately provide optimum care for those individuals dealing with this unpredictable disease,” June Halper, the centers' chief executive officer, said in a press release.

#MSParis2017 – Genentech to Share Host of New Ocrevus Data at ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting

Genentech will present a host of new information on its multiple sclerosis treatment Ocrevus and lessons its scientists have learned about the disease at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris, Oct. 25–28. The presentations will offer new insights into the therapy's mechanisms, safety and effectiveness in people with the primary progressive and relapsing forms of MS. They will also look at new ways to track MS, including additional biomarker possibilities. MS experts say the joint meeting of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) and Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) is one of the largest global congregations of scientists working on the disease. The information Genentech plans to present will demonstrate "the commitment of our scientists and research partners to advance understanding of MS progression through ongoing analyses of the Ocrevus Phase 3 clinical trials,” Dr. Sandra Horning, the company's chief medical officer and head of its Global Product Development arm, said in a press release. Genentech, which is part of the Roche group, said the 18 presentations will represent the largest body of evidence ever presented on Ocrevus. The discussions will reinforce the therapy's favorable benefit-risk profile, Genentech added. Two presentations will cover new ways that doctors can look for signs of disease activity that can lead to disability. One yardstick is called progression independent of relapse activity, or PIRA. Another is tracking slowly evolving lesions. Genentech researchers came up with the approaches when they analyzed a subgroup of patients in the OPERA I and OPERA II Phase 3 clincal trials, whose aim was to evaluate Ocrevus as a treatment for relapsing MS. The patients' disease progressed even though they had no relapses, researchers said. The team will also discuss how Ocrevus affected these patients' disease. Another presentation will cover long-term follow-up data from an extension of the ORATORIO Phase 3 clinical trial (NCT01194570), which dealt with Ocrevus' ability to treat primary progressive MS. It will   look at how well Ocrevus slowed the progression of patients' disability. Updated information on Ocrevus’ safety —  based on open-label extension studies — will be another component of the presentations. So far, researchers have detected no new safety issues. Genentech will also discuss a new way of using conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify and track slowly evolving lesions. The company's scientists think that tracking the lesions may be a good way to measure chronic disease activity. This would contrast with tracking ordinary MS lesions, which are biomarkers of acute — as opposed to chronic — disease activity. In addition to "two new potential markers of underlying disease activity and their impact on disease progression, we hope to bring new tools to the MS community to better understand and manage the disease,” Horning said. One tool, which Genentech has begun testing in clinical trials, is gathering patient information with sensors connected to a smartphone. Researchers are comparing the information obtained in the FLOODLIGHT study with what physicians record during patient visits. The research team believes the FLOODLIGHT method may be be able to detect subtle changes better. This could make it a better predictor of disease activity and long-term patient outcomes. In addition to the presentations, Genentech will sponsor two symposia at the meeting that will discuss how MS progresses, features of the chronic version of the disease, and the link between inflammation and the progression of MS. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ocrevus in March 2017.  

Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Aubagio May Cause Nail Loss, Researchers Report

Aubagio (teriflunomide) may lead to reversible nail loss, researchers at Italy's University of Bologna reported after reviewing the case of a 55-year-old woman with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. They described what happened to a patient who was referred to an MS clinic after experiencing acute optic neuritis — or inflammation of the optic nerve — three months earlier. Their report, “Nail loss after teriflunomide treatment: A new potential adverse event,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. Doctors had been treating the woman with intravenous methylprednisolone. Physicians had judged her slightly disabled, with an Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 3, but had not diagnosed her with MS. When she was diagnosed a few months later, she began receiving interferon beta-1a. It did not work, so doctors switched her to Sanofi Genzyme's Aubagio. At first, she tolerated the treatment well, having only slight nausea after taking the medication. Physicians did not detect signs of liver toxicity or high blood pressure, which are relatively common side effects of Aubagio. Roughly three months after starting the medication, however, the woman began having more trouble walking problems and had mild hair loss. Two and a half months later, she said her nails had started falling out in the past month. When doctors examined her, she had lost two nails, while others appeared to have stopped growing. They were thinner than normal and some had detached from the nail bed. In addition, her hair loss continued. She had not started using other drugs, new cosmetics, or changed her diet. A dermatologist excluded the possibility that the condition was the result of fungus, psoriasis, or other conditions that could cause nails to fall off. Because doctors suspected that Aubagio could be the cause of the nail loss, they recommended that she stopped taking it. The patient switched to Biogen's Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) after a couple of weeks, and her nails started to grow again. This supported doctors’ idea that Aubagio had caused the nail loss, and that it was reversible. Nail growth is similar to that of hair, researchers said. The patient’s reaction could be an unusual version of the same process that makes people lose their hair when taking Aubagio, they said. Since nail loss is not described as a side effect of Aubagio on the medication's label, researchers urged MS specialists to consider the possibility if they see patients with the problem.