ACTRIMS Forum 2021: What to Expect From the Virtual Meeting


Ahead of sessions kicking off on February 25, the ACTRIMS committee offered a look into what data, plenary talks, and developments are set to be presented at the upcoming ACTRIMS Forum 2021.

Jeffrey Cohen, MD

Jeffrey Cohen, MD

As has been the new routine approach for medical societies and organizations, the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2021 has shifted to a virtual format, with sessions regarding multiple sclerosis (MS) care expected to launch on Thursday, February 25, 2021.

NeurologyLive will be providing in-depth coverage of the meeting over the course of its run, as well as extending into March. The coverage will include interviews with experts in MS, the latest from the poster presentations, and the insights gleaned from the larger, thematic sessions of the forum. Catch up on all the latest from NeurologyLive by clicking here: ACTRIMS Forum 2021.

This year’s meeting is themed “The Spectrum of Multiple Sclerosis,” and is headed by Jeffrey Cohen, MD, who currently serves as ACTRIMS president. The meeting’s theme and presentations were compiled by the steering committee, including Chairwoman Anne Cross, MD, and Vice-Chair Catherine Larochelle, MD, PhD. Upward of 300 posters are expected to be showcased at this year’s virtual meeting.

“The meeting has a planned theme and planned invited talks that follow that theme,” Cohen explained in the opening press conference. “One of the features we like about our meeting is that the meeting is coherent, it’s not just a potpourri of topics like some of the larger meetings, including our joint meeting in the Fall."

Cohen noted his excitement about the opening address, the Kenneth P. Johnson Memorial Lecture, which will be delivered this year by Benjamin M. Segal, MD, chair, Department of Neurology, director, Neuroscience Research Institute, and co-director, Neurological Institute, and Stanley D. and Joan H. Ross Chair in Neuromodulation, The Ohio State University. That address will be given at 10:00 AM Eastern Time (ET) on Thursday, February 25.

Segal, who co-chaired the scientific program committee for the joint ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS meeting in the fall, summed up the highlights from MS Virtual to NeurologyLive in November, noting that the parallel sessions from that meeting "were designed so that someone that has a particular research or clinical interest or background would be able to stay on that same track and not have competing talks that they had to bounce around [to and] from.” Watch him summarize the aforementioned joint meeting to catch up on those prior presented data below.

This year’s ACTRIMS Forum, according to Cross, was also pointed in its design. One such focus was to ensure there was diverse representation in the presenters within the selected themes, mirroring the diversity that has been observed in patients with MS themselves. This is in part on display with Session 3, which will be put on in partnership with LACTRIMS, the Latin American committee, on Friday, February 26, at 11:00 AM ET.

“Part of the value, in particular with this program [with LACTRIMS], is that there may be some differences that could be informative and similarly, there may be commonalities that may be informative,” Cohen said. That session, “The Spectrum of MS in the Hispanic and Latino Populations,” is chaired by Daniel Ontaneda, MD, PhD, and will focus on the manner in which MS affects Hispanic and Latinx populations in the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America.

“Although there is certainly genetic input to MS, when you say ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latinx’ it’s a huge variety of people and countries. Then, there is this environmental impact that seems to be very prominent in this disease. That may change depending on where people grow up or live,” Cross said. “Everybody is so heterogeneous.”

Anne Cross, MD

Anne Cross, MD

Additionally, this year’s meeting will feature a number of sessions that Cohen and Cross highlighted, including a Cutting Edge Developments session, on Friday, February 26, at 12:45 PM ET, will feature Amber Salter, MPH, PhD, and Amit Bar-Or, MD, FRCPC, who will offer their insights into the latest information from the COViMS registry and the responses to vaccination among patients on different MS disease-modifying therapies, respectively.

When the COViMS registry was originally launched in 2020 by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) and National Multiple Sclerosis Society, NeurologyLive spoke with Cross about the importance of capturing such data at a pivotal time, and how it can become a tool for clinicians to better understand more about treating their patients and learning about COVID-19. She noted at the time that, “in the MS world, we have 17 different drugs that we can use for disease modification that improve relapse rates and long-term outcomes,” and “these medications have their individual effects on the immune system, but they are different.”

Importantly, she added that clinicians need to understand the impacts of the pandemic better and that the registry might help to “figure out whether some of our patients are doing particularly poorly or particularly well on given drugs that have certain effects on the immune system, then it might help us to better understand the COVID-19 disease as a whole.”

Finally, Cohen and Cross pointed to Session 2, “The Spectrum of MS Across the Lifespan,” chaired by Riley Bove, MD, MMSc, which will examine the effects of extremes in age on MS, and the effects of aging on the central nervous system’s recovery capacity, in order to teach the audience how to define the effects of MS on cognition in pediatric-age MS patients and examine how aging and menopause alter remyelination and recovery from MS disease activity.

That session will feature presentations on the pediatric-onset effects of MS on cognition and learning over the long-term, the role of menopause and hormones in MS, as well as the impact of aging on the rejuvenation of oligodendrocytes and the disease as a whole.

Cohen noted that this year, young investigators—students/trainees who are in the process of obtaining an advanced degree (MD or PhD), or colleagues who have obtained an advanced degree within 7 years of the time of registration—will be able to attend free of charge. To register for the conference, click here: ACTRIMS registration.

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