MS Research Roundup: November 5, 2014
One Clinic’s Tecfidera PML Guidelines; Innovation Award for MS Genomics; Journalism Prize to MSDF Contributor
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PML Case on Dimethyl Fumarate: One Clinic’s Guidelines
In our last Research Roundup, we reported about a patient who died after developing a rare brain infection, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), while taking dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera, Biogen Idec). For three years preceding the infection, the patient’s lymphocyte count was very low (500/mm3 or 0.5 × 109/L), a known risk factor for PML. In response, Gavin Giovannoni, MBBCh, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in London drafted interim guidelines to manage their patients taking dimethyl fumarate and shared them at their MS Research Blog. Basically, Giovannoni calls for consistent monitoring of each patient’s leukocyte count, to be cautious about proceeding with dimethyl fumarate if the leukocyte count drops below 0.8 × 109/L, and to cease treatment if it dips below 0.5 × 109/L. In the Tecfidera label (PDF) approved on March 27, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that the drug may cause lymphopenia and recommends a complete blood cell count before a patient starts taking dimethyl fumarate and then annually or as clinically indicated. The label suggests withholding treatment in patients with serious infections. However, the label stops short of suggesting the treatment be suspended once lymphocyte levels dip below a certain point. (Drugs@FDA, MS Research Blog)
De Jager Wins NMSS Innovation Award
Kudos to Philip De Jager, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and at Harvard Medical School, for winning the 2014 Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research. The international award was established last year by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) to drive progress in MS research. “De Jager, a clinician and a researcher, was selected for his work in applying powerful analytic approaches to better understand how genes and the environment interact with the goal of developing personalized treatments for MS and, ultimately, disease prevention,” according to a NMSS news release. De Jager, a founding member of the International MS Genetics Consortium, has played a key role in nearly every major gene discovery and advancement over the past decade. In the news release and a short NMSS video, De Jager explains his dual goals of developing a treatment to prevent MS and to understand MS-related neurodegeneration. (NMSS)
Standing Up for Science
MSDF extends its congratulations to Emily Willingham, Ph.D., a co-winner of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science. The prize was given “for courage in promoting science and evidence on a matter of public interest, despite facing difficulty and hostility in doing so.” Willingham has written about autism and science for consumers for Forbes. A science journalist with MS (or possibly another condition with similar symptoms), Willingham has contributed articles to MSDF, such as this discovery about myelin patterning along axons. She also posts in our MS Patient, Ph.D., blog, such as this post about inconclusive studies of vitamin D and this one about new hope for people with primary progressive MS. Willingham, a medical writer at BioMarin Pharmaceutical in California, is working on completing a book on evidence-based parenting for Perigee Books (Penguin Random House) with her co-author Tara Haelle and maintains a personal blog. (The Conversation, Forbes, Sense About Science, The Scientist)
Gavin Giovannoni, MBBCh, PhD, is a member of the MSDF Scientific Advisory Board. NMSS is a funder of MSDF. Philip De Jager, M.D., Ph.D., is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Accelerated Cure Project, the nonprofit publisher of MSDF.
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