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Thinking About Emotional Wellness

Blog Summary

Last week, I attended the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Los Angeles. There were several studies presented on aspects of emotional health, and it got me thinking about how important it is to remember that our emotional health can affect many aspects of living with MS.

Research has shown that anxiety and depression can occur as MS symptoms, not just as reactions to having the disease. One poster presentation I saw was by Canadian researchers, who generally do a pretty good job tracking people with MS because of their unified health systems and electronic records. They reported that anxiety (and diabetes) could have a negative impact on a person’s cognition. The researchers commented that it’s possible that treating diabetes or anxiety could improve cognitive problems for people with MS.

Repairing Myelin to Restore Function

Blog Summary

There were many talks about some really interesting and promising research at the 2018 ACTRIMS Forum. What’s great is that you can browse the online abstracts (scientific summaries) of the ACTRIMS Forum presentations and posters to see for yourself.   One of the most interesting and exciting talks I heard was presented by the latest winner of the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research, Dr. Robin Franklin from Cambridge University. This is the first time that the Barancik Prize has been presented at the ACTRIMS Forum, and he gave a great lecture (here’s a video that introduces Dr. Franklin, in case you’re interested)...

Did You Know?

Blog Summary

Greetings from the ACTRIMS Forum 2018! This 3-day meeting brings together almost 1,000 MS-focused health care professionals, such as researchers and neurologists, and lets them share their latest research findings. I wanted to share with you a few of the amazing things I’ve learned so far at this inspiring meeting.   There are plenty of lectures from experts who were invited to review the latest research on specific topics. Then there are also presentations by investigators who submitted summaries of their results to the meeting organizers, for possible acceptance as either lectures or as posters. I happen to love poster sessions. Kind of like a science fair, you can go up to researchers and their posters and talk to them about their work...

Hope

Blog Summary

When I was 18 years old, I moved out of my parents’ home to live with my non-English speaking uncle, who had recently been diagnosed with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis. Shortly after his diagnosis, my uncle lost his job, his wife divorced him, he could no longer walk without a walker, and he was left feeling weak and hopeless. By being his primary translator at doctor visits, teaching him how to self-administer Copaxone injections, taking him to the ER after adverse reactions to treatment, explaining how one treatment compares to another, and emotionally supporting and encouraging him to never quit fighting, I witnessed firsthand what an individual with MS struggles with daily...

Addressing the Drug Price Crisis

Blog Summary

As the founder and co-chair of the House Prescription Drug Task Force — the only group of Members of Congress dedicated to addressing the drug price crisis — I am committed to advancing legislative and regulatory solutions to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Before I signed the pledge, I was already working to make medications, including multiple sclerosis medications, more affordable. We have made many strides in research and treatment, but an unaffordable drug is 100 percent ineffective. The National MS Society is a strong ally in addressing the problems of accessing medications, including rising drug prices. With nearly a 400 percent increase in the price of multiple sclerosis medications from 2004 to today, the MS Society’s initiative to make medications accessible comes at a critical time. Rising prices are about more than just one CEO, one drug manufacturer, or one drug.  Across the board we are seeing increases that put treatment out of reach of too many...

MS Symptoms: Researchers Look for Life-Changing Breakthroughs

Blog Summary

Stopping the effects of even one MS symptom can be a life-changing breakthrough for an individual with MS. I’m encouraged by the many strategies I heard about at ECTRIMS and its companion meeting, Rehabilitation in MS (RIMS), and am hopeful that they can soon be put into action to change the lives of people with MS.Fatigue – Dr. Vincent de Groot (Vu University Medical Center, Amsterdam) reported results from three clinical trials, each testing a different strategy to see if it could lessen fatigue over 16 weeks in approximately 90 people with MS: aerobic training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and energy conservation management.  Only cognitive behavioral therapy effectively reduced severe fatigue in this short-term study. We know that psychological interventions are a part of managing fatigue, and these results certainly support that...

Research News on Secondary Progressive MS from ECTRIMS

Blog Summary

​Greetings from London, England, on the final day of the very busy ECTRIMS meeting. There have been more than 1500 research study results presented over the last few days. If anyone wants to see the depth and breadth of the research, the abstracts (summaries of conference presentations) are freely available here. Also, I hope you’ll catch other blogs by my colleagues related to HSCT, progressive MS, gut microbiome and coming up on Monday, symptoms and rehab solutions.   Beyond formal presentations, I think the best part of conferences like this one are the hallway conversations and spontaneous meetings that often lead to new collaborations and ultimately, new breakthroughs. At a conference as focused as ECTRIMS, the exchanges are, “all MS, all the time.” ...

From ECTRIMS: New Results on Gut Bacteria and MS

Blog Summary

The ECTRIMS meeting has been a great place to connect with researchers on what’s truly exciting in MS research. I’ve especially enjoyed hearing about an area of investigation that is moving forward quickly – from initial observations toward treatments or solutions for people with MS. From what I've heard this week, researchers who are looking at the gut microbiome and its role in the MS immune attack are doing just that.    Drs. Yan Wang, Lloyd Kasper and colleagues from Dartmouth Medical School and Eastern Washington University built on previous work, which had shown that modulating gut bacteria during MS-like disease in mice induced specific immune cells (called Bregs – or regulatory B cells), and these Bregs reduced disease severity...

ECTRIMS 2016: Bone Marrow Transplantation (HSCT)

Blog Summary

It’s nighttime here in London, England after the first full day of ECTRIMS – the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS. This meeting is the world’s largest gathering of MS researchers in the world, with more than 8,000 clinical and research professionals from across the globe, including many Society-funded researchers and fellows, meeting to share their cutting-edge research findings, to network and collaborate.   It was a jam-packed day of science!  For this blog, I want to share my impressions of a staged debate that was focused on the topic of hematopoietic (bone marrow) stem cell transplantation – HSCT for short...

Studies advance emotional and cognitive health in MS

Blog Summary

Finding solutions that advance emotional wellness and cognitive function can make every aspect of living with MS better. As a clinical psychologist who has treated people living with this disease, I find it heartening to see how researchers presenting this week at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting are propelling this search forward. Here is just a small sample of their work. (Links are included to abstracts on the AAN site - access is free.) Let’s start with cognition – half or more of all people with MS will experience cognitive issues at some point. The fact that there is such a thing called “cognitive rehabilitation” rightfully suggests that there are options open to many that may help improve cognitive function. For example, Dr. Leigh Charvet and colleagues at New York University Langone Medical Center and the State University of New York at Stony Brook tested a computer-based cognitive training program in 135 people with MS. Of this group, 71 people used the training program – a series of brain-training games that are continuously adapted to keep the individual challenged – and 64 played regular video games for one hour per day, five days per week, over 12 weeks. Although the “placebo” video game group logged more playing time, those in the training group showed significantly greater improvement in cognitive function, as shown by a number of neuropsychological tests. I hope further testing makes this and similar programs easily accessible for improving cognition in MS...

Me and my "happy pill"

Blog Summary

Oh, I remember. In my 20's, losing sight in my right eye, tingling in my hands. In my early 30's, unable to taste food, numbness on my right side. Then at 38, vertigo, numbness from my head to my foot only on my right side, slurred speech. Finally a diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. I couldn't get a disease that was easier to spell?! I saw one of the best neurologists in NYC who told me that what I had experienced in the past and what I was experiencing now were symptoms of MS. Were there any treatments? Yes.  Was I going to inject myself? "No way." ...