Developing therapies & preventative strategies

Top priority for people with rare neurological diseases

For representatives of people with rare neurological diseases, the most important aim of research should be ‘developing therapies and preventative strategies’.

Healthcare professionals scored ‘disease mechanisms and models’ as the most important aim of research, taking the position that it will lead to more knowledge and help find new treatments.

Whilst this difference in priorities might not seem great, it can lead to significant differences in research direction in practice, and highlights the need for stakeholders from both groups to be engaged in setting research direction and jointly establishing priorities.

Background: Patient involvement in research increases the impact of research and the likelihood of adoption in clinical practice. A first step is to know which research themes are important for patients. We distributed a survey on research priorities to European Reference Network for Rare Neurological Diseases (ERN-RND) members, both patient representatives and healthcare professionals, asking them to prioritize five research themes for rare neurological diseases on a scale ranging from 1 (most important) to 5 (least important). A follow-up e-mail interview was conducted with patient representatives and professionals to assess potential reasons for differences in opinions between these two groups.

Results: In total, 156 responses were analysed: 61 from professionals and 95 from patient representatives. They covered all ERN-RND disease groups and came from 20 different EU countries. Almost half of the respondents considered ‘Developing therapies and preventive strategies’ the most important research theme. In particular, patient representatives prioritized this theme more often than professionals, while professionals prioritized ‘Disease mechanisms and models’. Patient representatives indicated that therapies and prevention were of the utmost importance to them, because their lives are often heavily impacted by the disease and their main goal is to relief the burden of disease. Professionals indicated that investigating disease mechanisms will lead to more knowledge and is indispensable for finding new treatments.

Conclusions: Patients and professionals have different opinions on which research theme should have priority. A qualitative follow-up shows that they respect each others’ viewpoints. Different stakeholders involved in research should be aware of their differences in research theme priority. Explaining these differences to each other leads to more understanding, and could improve patient engagement in research.

SOURCE:  Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2021 Mar 18;16(1):135. doi: 10.1186/s13023-020-01641-z. PMID: 33736655

Research priorities for rare neurological diseases: a representative view of patient representatives and healthcare professionals from the European Reference Network for Rare Neurological Diseases

Annemarie E M Post  1 Thomas Klockgether  2   3 G Bernhard Landwehrmeyer  4 Massimo Pandolfo  5 Astri Arnesen  6 Carola Reinhard  1 Holm Graessner  7   8

1. Institute for Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

2. Department of Neurology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.

3. German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Bonn, Germany.

4. Department of Neurology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.

5. Service of Neurology, Erasme Hospital, and Laboratory of Experimental Neurology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.

6. European Huntington Association (President), Søgne, Norway.

7. Institute for Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

8. Centre for Rare Diseases, University Hospital Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

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