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The Importance of ALS Awareness Month: Matthew B. Harms, MD

The associate professor of neurology at Columbia University and medical consultant and care center director, Muscular Dystrophy Association, discusses the impact that the Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS Awareness Month have had on the ALS treatment landscape.

“[The Ice Bucket Challenge], and the funding that the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the NIH and other organizations have poured into ALS has had one dramatic effect that isn’t going to show up in a publication, and that’s that it has brought so many new faces and talents into the ALS research community."

As is the case for many disease states in the scope of neurology—particularly those that are more rare—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has 1 month every calendar year dedicated to shining a light on the people affected by the disease as well as the healthcare professionals fighting to find effective treatments. May is ALS Awareness Month and, over the years, a number of awareness campaigns have helped raise not only the general public's awareness of the disease but funds for research into treatments.

Perhaps the most famous of these campaigns is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which gained popularity in 2014 and ultimately helped raise millions of dollars for research. For clinicians and researchers who work with this patient population, such as Matthew B. Harms, MD, associate professor of neurology, Columbia University, and medical consultant and care center director, Muscular Dystrophy Association, the lasting impact of these efforts has been extremely valuable.

In this interview with NeurologyLive, Harms discussed how ALS Awareness Month and related efforts have affected the last decade of disease research and shared his perspective on some of the attention that it has brought to the field. Additionally, he offered insight into what clinicians should know about genetic forms of ALS and how genetic testing may impact the future development of treatments.