Lilyana Amezcua, MD: Better Understanding MS in the Hispanic Community

April 26, 2018

The associate professor of clinical neurology spoke about the need to understand modifiable social and cultural factors that could impact disease severity and progression.

“You see a greater number of cases being reported throughout Latin America, particularly in [those of] Hispanic backgrounds.”

At the American Academy of Neurology's (AAN) 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California, NeurologyLive's sister publication, MD Mag, sat with Lilyana Amezcua, MD, to discuss the recent understanding of the increasing number of cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) in minority populations.

The associate professor of clinical neurology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of medicine noted that although historically, has been known as a condition that rarely effected anyone without a European or Caucasian background, that may not be the case. Just a few years prior, research revealed that less than 1% of all research being done in the field of MS was dedicated to examinations in minorities, and while the medical community believes there are disparities between the groups, Amezcua said that it may be possible that there are also biological differences that are not being accounted for. As a result, herself and a larger community have begun collecting data on Hispanic patients with MS to better understand the genetic diversity and identify differences with these patients.

Thus far the group, the Alliance for Research in Hispanic MS, has found that these patients often present with MS earlier and tend to have less access to treatments for the condition, and thus can be at higher risk of disability caused by the disease. Their work, she said, includes a large study to better understand both environmental and genetic predispositions to MS.

Currently, Amezcua noted, the group is moving forward with a longitudinal study to understand the potential modifiable social and cultural factors that could impact disease severity, and hopefully, progression.