MSIF staff greet visitors in the exhibtion hall at ECTRIMS

MSIF staff, Ceri Angood and Dr Dhia Chandraratna, greet visitors at the MSIF stand in the exhibtion hall at ECTRIMS

The world’s largest scientific conference on multiple sclerosis took place in Barcelona last week. A record number of participants (nearly 9,000), including staff from the MSIF secretariat and our member organisations, attended the 31st ECTRIMS (European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis) congress to hear about progress in topics ranging from progressive MS and MS risk factors and prevention, to biomarkers and personalised medicine.

The MSIF stand in the exhibition hall attracted lots of visitors and acted as a hub for meetings with representatives from MS organisations around the world. We had a great display of posters and other materials from our members (and we would love to have even more next year!).

Day 1

ECTRIMS began with teaching courses on topics ranging from pregnancy to paediatric MS, followed by the Young Investigator’s session in the afternoon.

MSIF Young Investigator’s Award

MSIF’s Young Investigator Award for 2015 was given to Dr Mauricio Farez from Argentina for his presentation titled ‘Melatonin contributes to the seasonality of multiple sclerosis relapses’. This work was done in collaboration with Prof Jorge Correale (FLENI, Argentina) and Prof Francis Quintana (Harvard Medical School, USA) and has recently been published in Cell (Pubmed ID: 26359987).

Day 2

Day 2 opened with a welcome from ECTRIMS President Prof Xavier Montalban and the ECTRIMS plenary lecture by Prof Alan Thompson on ‘Progressive MS – how do we meet the therapeutic challenge?’ featuring new initiatives including the International Progressive MS Alliance, which MSIF is a managing member of.

Other sessions included ‘Society and MS’, ‘Challenges in clinical trial design’ and ‘MRI and cognition’, as well as the ‘hot topics’ session featuring ‘Early MS’, ‘MS care 3.0’ and ‘new players in MS immunopathogenesis’.

MSIF International Medical and Scientific Board (IMSB) meeting

We held the annual IMSB meeting, bringing together around 50 experts in MS from around the world to discuss MSIF’s research strategy and progress in our research programme in our priority areas of progressive MS, paediatric MS and stem cells, as well as our research awards (the Charcot award, the McDonald fellowships and Du Pré grants). For the first time, the meeting was also attended research staff from our member organisations as part of MSIF’s Research Staff Network.

Day 3

The morning featured a session called ‘Will MS be prevented?’ including interesting presentations from Prof Jorge Correale on Environmental factors, a stimulating discussion on microbiota (modulating microbiota: friend or foe) by Prof Reinhard Hohlfeld, and several other discussions on the role of comorbidities, dietary factors and genetics.

The afternoon sessions were focused on therapies, diagnosis and neurodegeneration followed by parallel ‘hot topics’ sessions on innovative therapeutic strategies, atrophy and epidemiology of demyelinating diseases outside Europe and NA, which featured several presentations on the increase of MS prevalence in Iran and the Middle East.

MSIF/ECTRIMS Joint Alumni Event

Every year, MSIF hosts an Alumni event bringing together current and past recipients of our research awards for an evening of presentations and networking. This year we teamed up with ECTRIMS to host a bigger and better joint event, attended by almost 100 alumni, senior MS researchers and staff from MS organisations.

Day 4

The final day at ECTRIMS began with a ‘late breaking news’ session featuring the eagerly awaited results of the OROTARIO trial of Ocrelizumab in primary progressive MS, which significantly reduced the risk of progression of clinical disability by 24% and is the first positive large scale clinical trial for treating primary progressive MS.

Another exciting result was from the small trial of Minocycline, a commonly used, safe and inexpensive antibiotic, which showed a 45% risk reduction in converting to MS from a first clinical demyelinating event called clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).

MSIF Charcot Award

MSIF’s biennial award for lifetime achievement in research on the understanding or treatment of MS, was given to Prof Giancarlo Comi in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the fields of pathophysiology and treatment of MS. Prof Comi was a pioneer in advocating early treatment, a topic that was very much a focus of discussion during ECTRIMS. His lecture was on ‘Evolving concepts in MS treatment’.

ECTRIMS blogs and reports from our members

Canada: Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Karen Lee, Vice-President of Research at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada reports from ECTRIMS

Italy: Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla (AISM)
Speciale ECTRIMS 2015

UK: The MS Society
First phase three trial to show positive results for primary progressive MS

USA: National MS Society (NMSS)
Emerging Therapies, Progressive MS, Wellness/Lifestyle and Other Research News from ECTRIMS Meeting