2nd EU-AIMS Webinar

July 26, 2017 at 4.30pm CEST / 3.30pm BST

Speaker: Dr. Eva Loth (Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London)
Title: Why do we need stratification biomarkers for autism spectrum disorder? An overview of the EU-AIMS Longitudinal European Autism Project

Over the past years, researchers and clinicians have begun to recognize the enormous diversity between individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a fundamental feature of this condition. For example, some children with ASD grow into independent adults while others remain very severely impaired throughout life. Some children with ASD also develop ADHD, depression or anxiety while others do not. Currently, we do not know what underpins these different symptom profiles and developmental trajectories, but we assume that different (genetic and environmental) factors may cause different forms of autism. We also recognize that different people with ASD not only want and need different types of treatment but also that many treatments may only work effectively for certain individuals. “Precision medicine” is a new approach that aims to match specific treatments to specific individuals that are most likely to benefit from them through use of stratification biomarkers. These are tests that help us to ascertain what form of autism a person may have based on a better understanding of his or her biological profile. So far, we do not have any validated biomarkers for ASD – primarily because most previous studies treated people with ASD as a uniform group and/ or because many studies were too small to look at sub-groups.

In this talk, Dr. Eva Loth (responsible for the Project Science Coordination and Deputy Lead Clinical Research in EU-AIMS) will give an overview of the EU-AIMS Longitudinal European Autism Project (LEAP).  LEAP is currently the worldwide largest study that aims to identify markers or tests that help us to divide ASD into different (biological) subgroups. The study is concurrently carried out in seven European study centres and includes over 800 individuals and their families. Each participant is comprehensively characterised in terms of his or her autism symptoms, associated mental health symptoms, functional outcomes, neurocognitive (psychological, emotional) profile, brain structure and function, biochemical markers and genomics.

Dr. Loth will describe the study design, procedures, and the clinical characterisation of the sample. As the analyses are still ongoing she will outline some approaches to identify subgroups using a person’s strengths and weaknesses across different cognitive tests as an example. Dr. Loth will also describe the procedures intended to move the field forward by increasing transparency, robustness and reproducibility of the analyses, which is key for a biomarker to be used eventually in clinical practice.