By Helen Russon
Those of us in the MS Community got a special treat on June 25, 2016: Oregon Health Sciences University conducted its annual education forum, “Multiple Sclerosis, At the Frontier and Beyond 2016.”
In this day-long presentation, OHSU doctors presented the latest research results in the tireless fight to end this disease. Even more impressively, the doctors participated in panel discussions and stayed afterwards to answer questions about this exciting research. Here are some of the day’s highlights:
MS AND REPRODUCTION
The first speaker was Dr. Sacha Ann Krieg. She talked about how estrogen and other hormones seem to play a role in minimizing the symptoms of MS. This is why several women tend to have an easier time with their MS during pregnancy. In addition, there is evidence that MS symptoms may worsen after menopause.
A possible solution could be that women with MS could go on hormone replacement therapy. However, a 2002 study by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) showed that these supplements may increase the risk of blood clots, stroke and other health problems. Dr. Krieg talked about the ongoing research to clarify the role of estrogen and other hormones in MS, so that women can make the best possible choices as they move through their lives.
Learn more here.
FINALLY, a drug for Primary Progressive MS?
This portion of the program was going to be presented by Dr. Dennis Bourdette, Executive Director of the Center. But since he was unable to attend at the last minute, Dr. Rebecca Spain stepped in and did a masterful job of discussing the material.
This topic was one that has vexed researchers, doctors and patients for decades: We now have 13 disease modifying therapies to ease the symptoms and slow the progression of relapsing-remitting MS. However, these medications don’t seem to work for the 10 – 15% (of which this writer is one) whose disease does not ebb and flow, but proceeds along a steady downward course – primary progressive MS (PPMS).
But now there is some real hope: Recent clinical trials have shown that a new drug, Ocrelizumab, may help slow the progression of PPMS. For that reason, it has been put on the “fast track” for FDA approval and may become available later this year. While the ultimate efficacy of Ocrelizumab may not be known for a long time, the fact that it even exists is very hopeful news.
In addition, there has been some exciting research showing that lipoic acid may have a major impact in minimizing symptoms in both Secondary and Primary Progressive MS.
So stay tuned – I know I will.
WELLNESS AND MS
Hopeful as all this research is, the fact is that those of us with MS must still get through each day as best we can. That was the topic addressed by the final speaker, Dr. Vijayshree Yadav, Clinical Director of the Center.
Dr. Yadav shared some exciting research indicating that a low-fat diet and increased exercise may help reduce fatigue in people with MS.
The hope is that more research will help clarify this link. In the meantime, these kinds of healthy habits are bound to help everyone, MS or not!
Helen is an attorney who currently investigates civil rights complaints for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. She also teaches a course in disability law, which is a subject she understands from both an intellectual and personal level. Helen writes, reads and gardens as much as possible and, as she told us, “I love doing volunteer work for the chapter.”