Biomarkers and Predictors For Developing Future Personalized MS Therapies Discussed at ECTRIMS 2015
New developments in the diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) are being discussed at this year’s 31st annual Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS). The symposium, being held in Barcelona, Spain, will foster discussions about development of individualized therapies for MS patients through a more targeted and efficient approach. Researchers believe this new vision for developing personalized MS therapy can be achieved through the use of novel biomarkers and predictors that can help tailor therapies to the individual needs of MS patients.
Multiple Sclerosis is characterized by damage to the protective cover of neurons, called myelin, resulting in inefficient communication between parts of the nervous system. Signs and symptoms of MS may include difficulty in movement/coordination, muscle weakness/spasms, problems with speech/swallowing, changes in sensation, depression/unstable mood, visual problems, bladder/bowel difficulties, and fatigue among others. These signs and symptoms may occur as episodes of sudden worsening with possible improvement or as progressive worsening without improvement.
It is believed that MS is caused by an abnormal immune response and environmental factors such as infections, cigarette smoking, stress, exposure to hazardous chemicals and diet among others. MS is considered one of the most frequent neurological diseases and a major cause of disability in young adults. In Europe, more than 500,000 people live with MS, and women are three times more likely to be affected by the disease than men. Financially, the overall costs of the disease for the European health and social budgets is estimated to be more than 15 billion euros per year.
There is no cure for MS, but currently a large number of medications with different mechanisms of action are available on the market. Nevertheless, the diagnostic and treatment approach currently used by specialists is based on the “one drug fits all” concept.
The ECTRIMS 2015 Congress will allow professionals to exchange the latest findings related to the approach of individualized therapy. By understanding the prognosis of each patient, it is possible to personalize the treatment by selectively choosing the best therapy and predicting side effects for each patient. This is certainly not an easy task, but could be achieved through the use of biomarkers and predictors.
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At the conference, a substantial number of presentations are focusing on biomarkers and predictors in which several developmental avenues are being considered. The first avenue relies on the use of a genome sequencing approach (RNA, microRNA, and DNA) to identify potential candidates that could be useful as biomarkers for disease activity in MS patients. The second approach consists of investigating protein biomarkers from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as predictors in MS. The third concept involves the use of tissue loss in brain and cervical spinal cord atrophy as predictors for disability progression and treatment response in MS. Finally, cognitive function is also considered a predictor for the disease by analyzing brain tissue damage, functional connectivity, and patient self-reported assessment of physical health status.
In conclusion, incorporation of biomarkers and predictors into routine clinical care may help physicians make individualized prognosis care decisions for MS patients, providing a more targeted and efficient therapeutic approach for MS patients.
“ECTRIMS works with researchers and clinicians of its member countries and with other organizations that share similar missions and objectives on a worldwide scale, creating networking and collaboration opportunities,” said ECTRIMS President Prof. Xavier Montalban in a press release. “An example for this is our close cooperation with the American Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis ACTRIMS. Among other cooperative efforts, the annual congress is held jointly by ECTRIMS and ACTRIMS every three years.”