In Bruges

08/04/2024 10:32am

Progress in the treatment of autoimmune disease is immensely challenging but can transform the lives of affected patients and have major implications for medical science in general. As such, it’s always a fascinating and important part of our work at TVF Communications. This has been truer than ever in the first half of 2024.

We’ve been working closely with a global top-10 pharmaceutical company to develop its presence at two European congresses that were held back-to-back in March, each focusing on a different autoimmune disease. These were the Systemic Sclerosis World Congress (SSWC) in Prague and the European Lupus Meeting (ELM) in Bruges.

The congress projects we helped devise and develop were varied: interactive digital content and printed materials for exhibition stands; discussion forums with doctors and patients; and a specialist-only symposium. Each project required fleet-footed onsite logistics and was the culmination of months of work by our client services and medical writing teams. Despite all that toil, though, there was still time to keep our eyes and ears open to the latest scientific trends. More on that shortly.

But first: why is treating autoimmune diseases so challenging? When the immune system attacks our own body, it can affect multiple organs in unpredictable ways. An autoimmune disease can therefore mimic an almost-endless list of other diseases. (Lupus has been referred to as “the great imitator”; it’s no coincidence that a misdiagnosis of lupus became a recurring reference in the medical show House).

The “self-attacking” immune system also means that, for diseases like lupus and systemic sclerosis, treatments need to tread a delicate line of risk versus benefit. Just as in cancer, effective treatments need to target the body’s misfiring cells without impeding the essential work of normal cells.

All this explains why innovations in autoimmune disease treatment can have such wide-reaching impacts on science and healthcare. And despite being relatively small events, both SSWC and ELM were rich in new and cutting-edge ideas.

SSWC saw the first presentation of new European-wide recommendations for the management of systemic sclerosis, as well as a wealth of studies with innovative designs that aim to explore new treatments for the disease.

ELM was similarly alive with exciting studies into new and existing drugs, as well as events where patients and doctors could debate future directions for lupus care.

Both congresses were a-buzz with talk of extremely promising, but very early, results for CAR T – a type of immunotherapy that has the potential to ‘reset’ dysfunctional immune systems.

It’s been a busy but rewarding period for those of us involved – and it’s far from over. Coming up in May is the European Renal Association Congress in Stockholm, where kidney-related autoimmune disease will be the focus of our attention. Then in early June we’ll be heading to Milan for EASL, Europe’s largest hepatology congress. To wrap up a busy first half of the year, we’ll then be heading to Vienna for EULAR: the biggest scientific congress for rheumatology in Europe, covering the whole range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.