ECTRIMS this year was a virtual, online meeting that had the usual amount of really interesting science and new ideas, but without the social interactions and networking benefits. The main topic of interest to the MS patient community was the several presentations on coronavirus and the risk of infection to people with MS and the effect of the disease modifying treatments for MS on the risk. There was a whole session devoted to the topic, which I have summarized on a separate page in this website.
There was not much on new treatments this year. The clinical trial that I found most interesting was a study of a masitinib in progressive MS. This drug targets a type of white blood cell called a mast cell, which usually functions in allergy. The investigators compared placebo to two different doses of the drug, 4.5 mg and 6 mg. The results for the 4.5 mg were promising, but the results with 6 mg were negative. This is disappointing, since we really need more effective treatments for progressive MS.
There is a lot of interest in treatments which can repair damage in MS. A small study with bexarotene found some suggestion of benefit, but there were tolerability issues with the drug. There were several basic science presentations related to remyelination and repair. Treatments to achieve this are just going into studies in humans, and it will be a long while before we have something that we can use in practice.
The scientific presentation that I found most interesting was by Dr. Saligrama. He has been working on ways to identify the T cells that are causing the damage in MS and to identify what they are targeting. In particular, he is looking for the targets that the CD8 T cells, which can kill other cells, are attacking. The method for doing this is quite complicated, but I think could end up giving important insights into what goes wrong with the immune system in MS.