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May 20, 2019

Leading and learning in neurological research

By Advancing the Science contributor
The brain, lit up artistically in blue light

Mayo shares neurological research and advancements at AAN meeting

Among more than 15,000 attendees at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, May 4-10, Mayo Clinic had a strong presence. Mayo scientists and clinicians led 38 courses and gave 84 lectures at the world's largest gathering of neurologists. Nearly 60 Mayo speakers shared key research findings and clinical best practices across a wide range of seminars, plenary and poster sessions, platform presentations, skills workshops, and leadership and experiential learning programs.

In addition, several Mayo neurologists were recognized with prestigious honors:

Claudia Lucchinetti receives an award
At the 2019 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, AAN president Ralph Sacco, M.D., right, presented a sculpture to Mayo Clinic neurologist Claudia Lucchinetti, M.D., in honor of her Robert Wartenberg Lecture on multiple sclerosis. This lifetime achievement lecture is awarded to a neurologist for excellence in clinically relevant research and is presented during the Presidential Plenary Session at the annual meeting.
Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Neurology.

“It’s impressive to see the breadth of Mayo Clinic’s involvement across the American Academy of Neurology,” says Claudia Lucchinetti, M.D., the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Professor of Neurosciences, and chair, Department of Neurology. “Neurologists from all Mayo Clinic campuses directed and/or participated in numerous educational courses, as well as presented their latest clinical and basic science research, which included collaborations with many other Mayo departments and disciplines.

“Altogether, Mayo Clinic continues to have a significant impact on the Academy across education, research and practice. The annual meeting is a remarkable illustration of the work not only of our faculty, but also of our neurology residents and fellows. In addition, many Mayo neurologists are in leadership roles within the Academy, with broad representation on many major committees, subcommittees, sections and leadership development programs.”

Plenary presentations

AAN shines a spotlight on the most significant advances in the research and treatment of neurological diseases during the annual meeting’s plenary sessions, including two led by Mayo Clinic.

Progress in Understanding Progressive MS: From the Microscope to the Bedside

Dr. Lucchinetti received the 2019 Robert Wartenberg Lecture Award, given annually to a neurologist for excellence in clinically relevant research. At the presidential plenary session on May 5, she delivered the Robert Wartenberg Lecture, conveying how detailed neuropathological assessment and evaluation of multiple sclerosis lesions from different stages and phases of the disease may help better inform some of the underlying factors that drive progression in MS.

“Treatment that prevents or substantially slows progression in MS remains one of our greatest unmet needs,” says Dr. Lucchinetti. “Through this lecture, I had the opportunity to share what we can learn from microscopic analysis of MS tissues, and how this work translates to the development of novel biomarkers, correlates with MRI imaging parameters, and may lead to the discovery of new treatments that more specifically target the pathogenic mechanisms that drive irreversible progression in MS. It was an honor to highlight not only the research from my own lab in collaboration with my colleagues in the U.S., Canada and Europe, but also present important advances made by my Mayo Clinic colleagues from the Division of MS and Autoimmune Neurology.”

A Placebo-Controlled Study of Galcanezumab in Patients with Episodic Cluster Headache: Results from the 8-week Double-blind Treatment Phase

David Dodick speaks at the Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia
Mayo Clinic neurologist David Dodick, M.D., presented a Clinical Trials Plenary Session on a study of galcanezumab in patients with episodic cluster headache at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Neurology.

In the clinical trials plenary session, David Dodick, M.D., presented on the efficacy and safety of galcanezumab to prevent episodic cluster headache. The study showed a significant reduction in the frequency of cluster headache attacks within the three weeks after the administration of the drug. These results are particularly relevant, as there currently are no drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent cluster headache.

“Based on our study, the FDA has fast-tracked review of galcanezumab for the prevention of cluster headache, indicating the significant unmet treatment need in patients suffering from this relatively uncommon but incredibly disabling disorder. It was an honor to present our work and be part of the palpable, meaningful presence Mayo Clinic has at this important event,” Dr. Dodick says.

Depth and breadth of research

Mayo Clinic research presented at the AAN meeting represented a variety of specialties and areas of study. For example:

  • Angelman syndrome: Children with Angelman Syndrome often have trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night. A new study suggests those difficulties may be reduced when patients receive iron supplementation therapy.
  • Autoimmune inflammatory disorders: The drug eculizumab significantly reduced the risk of relapse with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, a rare but severe autoimmune inflammatory disorder. Mayo Clinic researchers and international collaborators reported their findings, which also were published in the New England Journal of Medicine
  • Brain tumors: Patients with brain tumors often suffer from drug-resistant seizures. Researchers have discovered that genetic mutations are more important in originating seizures than tumor grade, location or pathology. These findings may help design therapies for patients.
  • Cognitive aging: "Brain reserve” protects against cognitive aging, according to Mayo Clinic findings. Even in midlife, general health factors like smoking, vascular disease and depression may lower that reserve, affecting brain health and risk for dementia.
  • Multiple sclerosis: Some people with MS feel squeezing, called the “MS hug,” in the chest or abdomen. A new study finds a majority of patients who report the “hug” had symptoms from another cause, including heart attack, pulmonary embolism and shingles.
  • Parkinson’s disease: A new study suggests salivary gland biopsies on both sides of the jaw are safe for patients with Parkinson’s Disease and may be useful in monitoring disease progression and treatment.
  • Sleep apnea: People who stop breathing during sleep may have higher accumulations of the toxic protein tau, a biological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, in the part of the brain that manages memory, navigation and perception of time, according to a preliminary study.
  • Transient global amnesia: Transient global amnesia is a sudden inability to form new memories, typically lasting four to six hours. New research suggests recurrence may be associated with earlier age of onset and personal and family history of migraine.

Awards and Honors

Other Mayo Clinic representatives received honors at AAN, including leadership appointments and awards.

  • Diego Z. Carvalho, M.D., received the Wayne A. Hening Sleep Medicine Investigator Award.
  • Lyell K. Jones, Jr., M.D., was approved by AAN voting members to serve on the AAN Institute Board of Directors.
  • Bryan Neth, M.D., Ph.D., received the Consortium of Neurology Residents and Fellows Essay Contest Award.
  • Vijay Ramanan, M.D., Ph.D., earned the Enhanced Resident Leadership Program Award.

AAN Leadership Programs

AAN Committee Members

AAN Annual Meeting Committee

The American Brain Foundation is AAN’s foundation to bring researchers and donors together to cure brain diseases and disorders. Mayo representation includes:

Board of Directors

Research Advisory Committee

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Tags: Alejandro Rabinstein, Allen Aksamit, Alyx Porter, American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, Angelman syndrome, Autoimmune inflammatory disorders, Brain tumors, Bryan Neth, Christopher Boes, Claudia Lucchinetti, Cognitive aging, David Dodick, Diego Carvalho, Eugene Scharf, Events, Gregory Cascino, James Bower, Jeremy Cutsforth-Gregory, Jonathan Graff-Radford, Joseph Sirven, Lyell Jones, Maciej Mrugala, MS, multiple sclerosis, neurology, News, P. James Dyck, Paola Sandroni, Parkinson's disease, Robert Brown, Ron Petersen, sleep apnea, Transient global amnesia, Vijay Ramanan

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