The annual conference of the European Committee of Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS) is underway in London. This is the largest conference on the global MS calendar. Researchers, neurologists, MS nurses and allied health professionals from all around the world, including Australia, gather to hear the latest updates and research findings on treatment, care and management of MS. Side meetings of global collaborations and training workshops also form part of the week’s activities.
Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei, researcher at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research Tasmania and lead investigator on the Australian MS Longitudinal Study AMSLS has sent through a report of the workshops she attended prior to the start of the formal ECTRIMS program.
Workshop Day – Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei reports on ECTRIMS
The first session was a teaching session conducted by Professor Gavin Giovannoni from the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry on the MS Brain Health: Time Matters report. This initiative that seeks to maximise brain health in MS through earlier diagnosis and treatment, better disease monitoring and improved treatment strategies, and improving access to treatments and symptom management. MS Research Australia and MS Australia have both endorsed this report and Professor Giovannoni issued a challenge for everyone to participate and improve their brain health.
Associate Professor Ruth Ann Marrie, from the University of Manitoba Canada, spoke about comorbidities in MS, that is when people with MS are also diagnosed with other health conditions. She stated that people with MS who also have other conditions have a longer delay to diagnosis, different symptom profiles, higher disability and worse progression of their disability progression. The effects of comorbidities on MS are large. Please see a recent article on comorbidities and MS here. Associate Professor Marrie discussed ways to deal with patients who have more than one condition including the use of screening protocols in the clinic, increased collaboration with multidisplinary teams and the use of the Ariadne principles of multimorbidity which prioritises the treatment of multiple health conditions in consultation with the patient and individualised management of the patient’s health.
Dr John Saxton from Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK ran a workshop on the benefits of exercise in MS. Exercise obviously has a host of physiological and psychological benefits and is increasingly being shown to be of benefit in MS. Dr Saxton discussed the idea of combining exercise with a psychological intervention such as cognitive behaviour therapy. He also discussed EXIMS, a program of exercise intervention for people with MS that is performed partly at home, partly in gym and also has a cognitive behaviour therapy component. Dr Saxton found there were good increases in physical activity by people who undertook the program during the intervention, but they all back to their previous levels of activity after 9 months.
The second teaching workshop that Associate Professor van der Mei attended covered patient empowerment and coping. At this session, Professor Christopher Heesen from the University of Hamburg in Germany discussed information provided to patients to clinical setting. He spoke about the need for this information to be based on evidence and also ways that this information could be improved. For example, it is known that providing people with improvement rates based on percentages can be misleading as not everyone will have the same level of outcome with a particular treatment or intervention. Other methods for creating good patient information were discussed with a focus on assisting people to cope with their diagnosis and empower them to make the best possible treatment decisions.