Rhonda Voskuhl, MD: How New Technologies Are Changing the Future of MS Treatments

Rhonda R. Voskuhl, MD

"In 1993, interferon beta-1b made history as the first drug to ever be approved for multiple sclerosis (MS). It also happens to be the year that Nancy Davis founded Race to Erase MS, an organization dedicated to funding cutting-edge, aggressive, and promising research in pursuit of a cure. To date, the organization has raised over $50 million for multiple sclerosis research.

On June 3, 2023, the organization gathered top MS researchers from around the United States for its MS Forum and Expo in Los Angeles, to discuss the latest advances in treatments. Here are some highlights from the event.


Targeting Midlife Brain Atrophy and Changes in MS

Previously, it was thought that the transition from relapsing-remitting to secondary-progressive MS was primarily influenced by disease duration, said Rhonda Voskuhl, MD, a professor of neurology and director of the MS program at UCLA Health, in her talk on MS and aging.

“Further analysis of that data by many groups showed that it’s actually not so much disease duration that leads to this transition to this progressive disability phase — it’s aging,” she said. Specifically, the time when a person is in their fifties is bad for MS, said Dr. Voskuhl.

This change is due to “immune senescence,” the gradual decline of immune system function that comes with age. “Older people are more likely to get infections and cancers. But what happens to the brain? The brain has neurodegeneration, and even during health, there’s brain atrophy — people have cognitive decline,” she said. Given that, it makes sense that a person with MS who has neurodegenerative aspects of their disease will get worse with aging, said Voskuhl.

She pointed out that transitioning from relapsing-remitting to secondary-progressive MS is not accompanied by a sudden increase in enhancing lesions or relapses. Instead, these patients experience fewer relapses but show an increase in disability primarily associated with brain atrophy, particularly in areas affected by aging, she said."

Read more at Everyday Health.