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Three talking points from day two of the Boston MS conference

In her third post from MS Boston 2014, Amy Bowen reports on the highlights from day two

Another day at MS Boston 2014. We heard that there are nearly 9,000 delegates from 90 countries attending the conference, which gives you an idea of the scale of this event. There was a fantastic presentation by a Danish group called Sailing Sclerosis. This is a group of people with MS who are sailing around the world and have just crossed the North Atlantic, arriving here in Boston just in time for the conference. The whole crew came to the conference and received a standing ovation from a packed hall. They showed a film of their Atlantic crossing which was really inspiring.

Thursday’s programme had much more scientific content, with findings from trials being presented in a constant stream in sessions running in parallel throughout the day. There were also some big announcements, but more of that later.

Big learning for me from the day:

  1. Some really great sessions on current thinking about disease modifying therapies. Overwhelmingly, neurologists recognise that decisions need to be personalised. There are clinical factors about the current important measures of disease activity, such as relapses, changes on MRI, sustained signs of disability and changes in brain volume. These help guide clinical assessment but are not enough on their own. The preferences of people with MS must play a big part in treatment decisions. This is partly about weighing up how effective each treatment is compared with the possible side-effects. It is also about how individuals feel about risk. Without a doubt, having information about treatments that can be compared is becoming more and more important.
  2. Lots of discussion about stem cells. Results of some promising studies and more work underway, but this is a new frontier and there are a lot of issues to be addressed. There was a strong message for people with MS to be extremely cautious about stem cell therapies which are offered outside of clinical trials. The risks are significant and serious.
  3. The Progressive MS Research Alliance announced its first research grants. This is a fantastic development for people with progressive MS. Though research takes time to deliver benefits, without it there can’t be progress in improving understanding of what causes and drives neurodegeneration in progressive disease or understanding of what therapies can help maintain function. These initiatives also help to continue to raise the profile of people with secondary progressive MS and primary progressive MS and of the importance of rehabilitation services.

That’s it for today.

Amy