5 Takeaways from the Migraine State of the Union

Experts weighed in on treatment and research at the inaugural Migraine State of the Union

Speakers at the inaugural Migraine State of the Union imparted a message of hope to the hundreds of patients who tuned in live. During the event, American Migraine Foundation (AMF) and American Headache Society (AHS) leaders Drs. Lawrence Newman, David Dodick, Peter Goadsby and Christine Lay shared valuable insights on advancements in migraine research, treatment and education. What an inspirational way to close out a phenomenal Migraine and Headache Awareness Month (MHAM)!

You can watch the whole Migraine State of the Union in the video below. You can also read on for some of the biggest takeaways.

Targeted therapies are changing lives

The field of migraine treatment has come leaps and bounds in the last few years. “Three years ago, we had one really single class of acute treatment that was developed 30 years prior,” said Dr. Dodick. “Then we got three molecular target drugs. Now we’ve got 16 drugs and another one around the corner.”

Dr. Goadsby added, “As a clinician, it’s just fantastic to be able to say to people who you’ve had to look at, scratching your head, ‘Finally, we have things that we can really do.’” he said. “I just can’t think of a more exciting time in my life.”

Dr. Goadsby recently received the Lundbeck Foundation’s prestigious Brain Prize and the American Brain Foundation’s Scientific Breakthrough Award for his seminal research into the role of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in migraine. His research identified CGRP as a target for drug development.

Headache research is booming

As the new treatments suggest, we are living through a golden age in headache medicine and research. This has an incredible impact on the more than 39 million Americans who live with migraine. As Dr. Newman shared, “So many advances which started in the laboratory have made it to the pharmacies and are helping us improve the way we care for our patients.”

Dr. Goadsby added, “There’s a genuine explosion of interest in migraine.” He shared that after the recent AHS scientific meeting, the society received a complaint that “too much science” was presented. This is a good problem to have, considering that there was once a time when a doctor could present all the migraine science happening in two hours. “The science is marching forward,” Dr. Goadsby assured viewers.

We’re making progress in reducing migraine stigma

One of the benefits of increased research and interest in the field is a better understanding of migraine as a brain disease. In addition to being a clinician and leader in headache medicine, Dr. Lay is also a person living with migraine, so she understands the stigma all too well. “For decades, patients have experienced a lot of stigma in their work environment, in their home,” she said. She shared that people living with migraine now have the research backing them. Their doctors now say, “You know what, migraine is not just a headache.”

Healthcare providers play an important role in empowering patients to stand up to stigma. Dr. Dodick said, “We have an understanding and an empathy for what they’re going through, and we never ever give up.”

Advocacy is key

Dr. Newman, who made headache medicine and migraine advocacy his life’s work, says that advocacy takes a village. “All of us, as professionals, as clinicians, as patients, as patient advocates, as professional advocates, we all need to come together,” he said. All advocacy wins result from conversations happening at all levels. “They happen in community support groups from our patients. They happen in the hallways and in the offices in Capitol Hill,” said Dr. Newman.

Dr. Dodick also stressed the importance of self-advocacy. He encouraged viewers to get involved in the research from a leadership or advocacy level. “Patients are increasingly sought after right now to be intimately involved in the design and in the conduct of research,” he said. One area for improvement that he identified was how clinical trials define “success” and how he hopes that patients can work with researchers to redefine what success looks like and how to measure it.

The future is bright, possibilities are endless

The overarching message was one of hope. Dr. Goadsby encouraged patients who had been failed by therapies to stay hopeful. “Even if everything we have today doesn’t work, there are people in the laboratory, and there is a tomorrow,” he said. He points to the current batch of targeted therapies as proof of a tomorrow, because they didn’t exist three years ago. “There was a tomorrow and there’ll be more tomorrows.”

Dr. Dodick added to that sentiment by discussing how far migraine research has come. He pointed to AMF’s American Registry for Migraine Research as an example, which collected detailed biological information about migraine patients across the country.

Now that researchers have the technology and tools to analyze and synthesize this data, they could identify subgroups of patients and the types of treatments they best respond to, essentially eliminating the guessing game and ushering us into a new era of precision medicine. “We could, instead of throwing darts with a blindfold, throw a single dart and hit the bullseye on the first effort.” said Dr. Dodick.

MHAM celebrated “A New Era of Care,” and the Migraine State of the Union truly demonstrated how far we’ve come as a community. Remember, the work doesn’t stop here.

Together, we are as relentless as migraine.

The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease—but we can’t do it alone. Donate today to help support migraine research. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.