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American Academy of Neurology's 58th Annual Meeting, April 1-8, 2006

American Academy of Neurology's 58th Annual Meeting

The American Academy of Neurology's 58th annual meeting took place April 1-8 in San Diego, Calif. The meeting, which drew more than 10,000 neurologists and neuroscientists from around the world, covered issues ranging from basic science and emerging technology to long-term population-based cohort studies that will help aid diagnosis of conditions earlier and allow more aggressive, evidence-based treatment.

"We're seeing a real convergence of technology and clinical research that is leading to what we hope will be a rapid translation of basic science observations to clinical care. We're seeing that virtually all across the major disciplines such as diagnostic imaging and molecular genetics, which helps us find gene mutations that lead to changes in protein expression and leads to diagnostic tests that allow us to diagnose diseases more quickly," said John Noseworthy, M.D., chair of the AAN Science Committee and Scientific Program Subcommittee and professor and chair of the Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn.

One of the major themes of the conference was the development of biomarkers, many of them not yet validated, which promise to become targets for new therapeutics. "I think that's probably the most exciting part of the meeting," Noseworthy said. "We're making terrific strides. For these diseases that we've not been able to diagnose early, we can follow the course of the disease and see whether these biomarkers are making a difference."

About a half-dozen major epidemiological studies were presented at the conference, which followed both diseased and normal subjects for up to 40 years. "These studies are coming together to verify some of these biomarkers in the community," Noseworthy said. "For population health management, that's very important."

Noseworthy also cited several drug-based studies. Among them was a study by Chris H. Polman, M.D., of the Vrije Universiteit Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues who randomly assigned 942 multiple sclerosis patients to receive natalizumab or placebo. They found that natalizumab reduced the risk of sustained progression of disability at two years by 42 percent and the rate of relapse at one year by 68 percent. Noseworthy also cited a long-term follow-up study by George Ebers, M.D., of the University of Oxford, U.K., and colleagues who located 331 (89 percent) of 372 multiple sclerosis patients who had participated 16 years earlier in a pivotal trial of interferon beta-1b. As of September 2005, they found that 297 patients were still alive and that 34 of them were deceased. "The final results from the 16-Year LTF study will allow clinicians to assess the safety and tolerability of long-term IFNB-1b administration and its effect on clinical and para-clinical outcomes," the authors conclude.

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