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Progress in Managing MS Symptoms and Other Results Reported at CMSC Annual Meeting

July 27, 2011

The core purpose of the Consortium of MS Centers (CMSC) is to maximize the ability of MS healthcare professionals to impact care of people who are affected by MS, thus improving their quality of life. The CMSC recently held its 25th annual meeting in Montreal, featuring more than 200 reports on research to improve care and quality of life of people with MS. Download the entire book of scientific abstracts from the CMSC meeting (PDF). (link broken) Here is a small sample of these reports:

Exercise boosts cognitive function: Cognitive changes are common in people with MS -- as many as half of people with MS will develop problems with cognition. Brian Sandroff and colleagues (University of Illinois, Urbana) enrolled 42 people with MS who wore accelerometers for seven days, and were administered tests of cognitive function. More physical activity was associated with faster information processing speeds, independent of a person’s disability status. In a similar effort, the National MS Society is currently funding a trial comparing the ability of aerobic exercise versus a stretching program to improve cognitive performance. (Abstract #S22)

Fatigue: MS predictor? Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS, and may be the most prominent symptom in a person who otherwise has minimal activity limitations. Joseph Berger, MD, and colleagues (University of Kentucky, Lexington) looked at the frequency with which fatigue “heralds” the onset of MS. Among 5305 people with MS, 29% reported fatigue in the three years before MS diagnosis. In 30% of these patients, fatigue was the only symptom preceding MS diagnosis. Fatigue preceded MS diagnosis by an average of 501 days. The authors advise that, in people experiencing unexplained fatigue, a detailed neurologic history and exam should be conducted to rule out MS. (Abstract #P18)

Wii™ for improving balance: Balance can be difficult to maintain for people with MS. Erin Korsbrek, MSc, and colleagues (University of Calgary) enrolled 18 people with MS in a study using Nintendo Wii Fit Plus three times per week for six weeks. Functional balance improved, and measures of fatigue and other symptoms remained stable, indicating no adverse effects. Coauthor Maureen Dunn, PhD (Hope College, Holland, MI) is currently funded by the National MS Society to conduct a 12-week trial to determine whether Wii is an effective balance rehabilitation tool for people with MS. (Abstract #P21)

Resveratrol: Negative preclinical results: The CMSC meeting includes laboratory studies as well. Previous research has suggested that resveratrol, a component of red wine, enhances the activity of a molecule (SIRT1) that might help to preserve nerve fibers, and it has been shown in several studies to decrease the severity of the MS-like disease EAE in mice. Fumitaka Soto, PhD (Louisiana State University, Shreveport) and colleagues reported that resveratrol actually worsened EAE in mice, causing severe damage. Further research will be needed to sort out this question. (Abstract #S7)

Evaluating relationship education: “Relationship Matters: A Program for Couples Living with MS” was developed by the National MS Society to help couples affected by MS to strengthen their partnerships and minimize the impact of MS on their lives. Couples receive eight hours of programming via “teleclasses” or in-person workshops. Kimberly Koch, MPA (National MS Society) and colleagues looked at a sample of more than 1,000 participants, and found significant increases in relationship satisfaction, along with clinically significant improvement in mental health. Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant: 90FE0090. Read more (link broken) about this program. (Abstract #S8)

Risk tolerance for MS therapies: Recently, several more effective, but more risky, therapies have become available to treat MS, and more are under development. Society grantee Robert Fox, MD (Cleveland Clinic Foundation) and colleagues administered a web-based questionnaire on risk tolerance to more than 10,000 people enrolled in the North American Research Committee on MS (NARCOMS) registry. A total of 5,446 people completed the questionnaire, and the results showed that three factors were associated with increased tolerance for risky therapies: increased disability, male gender, and not currently being on an MS treatment. These results can help to guide discussions between clinicians and people with MS. (Abstract S84)

Psychosocial factors related to smoking: Research suggests that smoking may increase the risk of developing MS and may speed disease progression. Joseph Ostroff and colleagues (State University of New York, Buffalo) examined factors that distinguished smokers from nonsmokers in a sample of 1300 people with MS whose information was recorded in the New York State MS Consortium registry. Smokers were significantly more likely to be single or divorced, and to experience higher levels of pain, fatigue, tension, and loneliness. Read more about healthy living with MS. (Abstract #S91)

Air travel accessibility: The challenges of travelling with a disability were discussed in focus groups and in visits to the local airport by a team including the St. Louis VA MS Center and Spinal Cord Injury Service, the Gateway Chapter of the National MS Society, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the St. Louis Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, and local airport, airline, and Travel Security Administration staff. Targets for accessibility improvement were identified, including the need to train airport staff regarding wheelchair mechanics and batteries; the need to provide opportunities for travelers with disabilities to do “dry runs” to increase familiarity; and the need to improve signage to indicate accessible routes to baggage claim. Read more about travel tips for people with MS. (Abstract #S124)

Educating physical therapy students about MS: Angela Rosenberg, PT, DrPH (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and colleagues, including Kaye Gooch of the Society’s Eastern North Carolina Chapter, presented a program developed by the university and chapter to educate physical therapists in the management of the neurologic and psychosocial needs of people with MS. Evaluations of the program indicate increases in MS-specific knowledge, and the team hopes this two-year program will serve as a model for other universities. Read more about education opportunities for physical and occupational therapists provided by the National MS Society. (Abstract #S133)

Breathing problems during sleep: Sleep-disordered breathing is a problem of respiration that occurs during sleep, such as sleep apnea. Tiffany Braley, MD, a Sylvia Lawry Physician Fellow of the National MS Society, explored the occurrence of these disorders in 48 people with MS and 84 controls without MS. The results suggest that people with MS and disease activity in the brainstem (the lower extension of the brain where it connects to the spinal cord) had a predisposition for sleep-disordered breathing. People with these disorders reported fatigue, lack of energy, or tiredness to be their most problematic symptom, as opposed to excessive daytime sleepiness. Read more about sleep disorders in MS. (Abstract #S155)

Click here (link broken) to view the entire book of scientific abstracts from the CMSC meeting (PDF).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. 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. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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