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2019 John Dystel Prize for MS Research Goes to Prof. Anne Cross, Who Championed the Role of B Cells in MS

April 10, 2019

--This year marks the 25th Anniversary of this prestigious Prize

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  • Anne H. Cross, MD, has been chosen by a committee of her peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy of Neurology’s 2019 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research.
  • This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the prize. Read more about other Dystel Prize winners.
  • Dr. Cross is a Professor of Neurology and the Section Head of Neuroimmunology, Washington University School of Medicine, and Co-Director of the John L. Trotter MS Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
  • Prof. Cross is being honored for wide-ranging translational research including early work on the key role of B lymphocytes (immune cells) in driving MS immune attacks, and investigation of new imaging techniques to detect disease activity.
  • The Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology. It was established by the late Society National Board member Oscar Dystel and his wife, Marion, in honor of their son, John Jay Dystel.
  • Prof. Cross will receive the prize and give the award lecture on May 8, 2019, at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia.
 
DETAILS
Anne H. Cross, MD, has been chosen by a committee of her peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy of Neurology’s 2019 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research. Dr. Cross is a Professor of Neurology and the Section Head of Neuroimmunology, Washington University School of Medicine, and Co-Director of the John L. Trotter MS Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
 
Her many research interests and successes include early work on the key role of B lymphocytes (immune cells) in helping to drive immune attacks in MS animal models and in people with MS. She also pioneered new imaging techniques to track MS disease activity, and has explored the potential benefits of calorie restriction.
 
“I’m thrilled about the Dystel Prize,” Prof. Cross said. “It lets me know that my career’s work has led to something meaningful. The National MS Society has been phenomenally supportive throughout the years. I wouldn’t have my career without the Society.”
 
In nominating Prof. Cross for the John Dystel Prize, Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, (University of California at San Francisco) noted, “She was the very first to demonstrate the role of B cells, initially in animal models of MS and later in MS. She very boldly investigated the role of B cells despite the field’s dogma at that time that claimed T cells were the main cell type contributing to MS onset and worsening. Her research has always been at the forefront of the field, and often provocative… She is a terrific leader and key contributor to MS research.”
 
In supporting her nomination for the Prize, Peter A. Calabresi, MD (Johns Hopkins University, Multiple Sclerosis Center Director), said Prof. Cross is “not only a creative, productive, and humanistic leader, but her early and translational work on B cells have been seminal contributions. Her expansive knowledge of MS combined with her outstanding creativity and mentoring skills have allowed her to build a world-class MS center that is now making major contributions to several other unique domains of research.”
 
Prof. Cross received early fellowship support from the National MS Society, including a Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar Award in 1990, a five-year career development award given to young scientists who are judged to have promising futures. That promise has been fulfilled in many contributions to the understanding and treatment of MS, including:
  • Identifying the role of B cells in MS lesion formation and disease course, which led to the first therapies targeting B cells, a type of immune cell. Her research has also been critical in identifying how these immune cells lead to central nervous system injury.
  • Pioneering the first clinical trial of rituximab, a B cell-depleting therapy, with funding from the National MS Society. Her studies with rituximab in people who were not helped by other treatments, began in early 2002 and helped pave the way for the FDA’s 2017 approval of ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), the first approved therapy for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS); it is also approved for relapsing forms of MS. Prof. Cross continues to work on how B cell depletion can be beneficial for treating MS. “We still don’t know exactly how B cell depletion works or why B cells are so critical in MS activity,” she notes.
  • Society-sponsored work contributing to the development of imaging techniques used to investigate progressive MS and nerve damage. Finding biomarkers that show progression before a person’s progressive disease is revealed on a clinical examination may lead to earlier and more targeted treatments for progressive MS.
  • Showing that calorie restriction can improve the course of disease in animal models of MS. This has led to several clinical trials in MS testing strategies such as intermittent fasting.
  • Sharing knowledge. She has mentored and trained numerous colleagues, many of whom have gone on to do important work in the field. Prof. Cross has also served as a volunteer peer reviewer of research proposals for agencies including the National MS Society, and was Chair of the Society’s Research Programs Advisory Committee.

Prof. Cross will receive the award on May 8, 2019, at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia, where she will deliver the Prize lecture about her research.
 
About the Prize: The Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology. The late Society National Board member Oscar Dystel and his late wife, Marion, established the Prize in 1994 in honor of their son, John Jay Dystel, an attorney whose promising career was cut short by progressive disability from MS. (John died of complications of the disease in June 2003.) Previous winners of the Prize are Drs. Donald Paty (1995), Cedric Raine (1996), John Kurtzke (1997), Henry McFarland (1998), W. Ian McDonald (1999), Kenneth Johnson (2000), John Prineas (2001), Stephen Waxman (2002), Bruce Trapp (2003), Lawrence Steinman (2004), Jack Antel (2005), William Sibley (2006), Howard Weiner (2007), Stephen Hauser (2008), David Miller (2009), David Hafler (2010), Brian Weinshenker (2011), Richard Ransohoff (2012), George Ebers (2013), Barry Arnason (2014), Alastair Compston (2015), Claudia Lucchinetti (2016), Alan J. Thompson (2017), and Frederik Barkhof (2018). Read more about other Dystel Prize winners.
 
Biography: Anne Cross, MD, is a Professor of Neurology and the Section Head of Neuroimmunology, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She received her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and completed an internship at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in San Diego, a residency in neurology at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and fellowships at the NIH in Bethesda, MD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. In 1990, she received the Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar Award, a five-year career development award given by the National MS Society to young scientists who are judged to have a promising future. Her honors include a 2014 Faculty Achievement Award from Washington University School of Medicine, the President’s Achievement Award of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, St. Louis in 2010, election in 2006 to the National MS Society’s “Hall of Fame” for Researchers, and many consecutive years being selected as one of “Best Doctors in America.” After serving for over 15 years on Society grant review committees, she was Chair of the Research Programs Advisory Committee of the National MS Society (2013-16) and also served on the NIH/NINDS Board of Scientific Counselors for four years. She is an Advisory Board member of the journal Brain and was a founding associate editor of The Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. She has published widely in scholarly journals. 
Read a Q&A with Dr. Cross.
 
 

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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