On 29-30 June, the UK MS Society hosted MS Frontiers 2015, the dedicated conference for UK and international MS researchers and health professionals. Here are some of their highlights from the conference.
“An exciting couple of days at Heathrow saw some of the greatest minds in MS research meet for lively discussions, insightful presentations and a stem cell showdown.
A focus on progression
Kicking off with a presentation on neuroprotection and future drug targets, it was clear from the outset that progression is a focus of MS research now more than ever.
The theme continued with a discussion session about the mechanisms of progression, allowing scientists to share their latest findings. Topics included nerve injury, the role of myelin-making cells and advances in imaging techniques. This variety showcased the breadth of expertise of those working to better understand progression in MS.
Day one finished with a passionate stem cell debate. Researchers with opposing views went head-to-head and took questions from the audience. One side pushed for stem cells as key to the future of MS treatment; the other emphasised the safety risks and the unknown long-term outcomes. There was a consensus that more data, particularly for the comparison of stem cell treatment with other emerging therapies, is needed – but there was no doubt that this is an exciting area of MS research.
A session on rehabilitation showed that times are changing in symptom management. We heard about creative and accessible physiotherapy programmes, the application of gaming and fun to rehabilitative exercises and even the use of text messages as a method of cognitive rehabilitation. A number of these trials come to an end soon and we look forward to sharing the results.
The afternoon workshop titled ‘The changing MS treatment landscape’ proved popular among delegates and there was valuable discussion around the use of DMTs. Similarly, day two saw some useful input to discussions around clinical trials and ways in which they can become more efficient in the future.
It was great to see so many experts contributing to these discussions, highlighting the importance of bringing researchers together. MS Frontiers 2015 was also a chance to recognise two researchers for their huge contributions.
Professor David Miller delivered the prestigious Ian McDonald Memorial Lecture, sharing insight from the past, present and future of MRI. Alongside this, Professor Alastair Compston received the first-ever Richard and Mary Cave Award for Services to People with MS.
The work of these scientists has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of people affected by MS and they are worthy winners.
There was also the opportunity to meet the next generation of MS researchers and health professionals. PhD students embarking on exciting careers presented their work and it was clear that they have the potential to make a considerable impact in the field of MS research. It is important that we encourage these scientists to continue on this path, and what better way to be inspired than to hear from the leading researchers in the field.
The high-energy buzz that surrounded MS Frontiers highlights just how exciting MS research is at the moment.”
This article was originally published in the MS Society’s MS Matters magazine.