The research interests of Cristina Valencia-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D., focus on autoimmune disorders involving the central nervous system. These include neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease (MOGAD), autoimmune encephalitis and paraneoplastic neurological syndromes. She is particularly interested in the neurological complications of immune checkpoint inhibitor cancer immunotherapy.
- Central nervous system complications of immune checkpoint inhibitor cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Valencia-Sanchez's research focuses on the clinical presentation and outcomes of patients who develop immune-related neurological adverse events involving the central nervous system after treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
- Myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease (MOGAD). Dr. Valencia-Sanchez investigates neurological presentations, neuroimaging characteristics, treatment responses and outcomes of patients with MOGAD. In addition, Dr. Valencia-Sanchez participates in clinical trials evaluating new treatments to prevent MOGAD relapses.
- Autoimmune encephalitis and paraneoplastic neurological syndromes. Dr. Valencia-Sanchez is interested in characterizing the neurological clinical presentation, neuroimaging features, treatments, outcomes and malignancies associated with newly discovered neural antibodies. She also participates in clinical trials evaluating new treatments for autoimmune encephalitis.
Significance to patient care
Currently, there are no therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of MOGAD and autoimmune encephalitis. The clinical trials that Dr. Valencia-Sanchez leads at Mayo Clinic in Arizona are among the first studies that may lead to approval of new targeted therapies for these conditions.
Additionally, Dr. Valencia-Sanchez's clinical research allows for increased recognition of autoimmune neurological disorders. Also, her work is helping avoid misdiagnosing autoimmune encephalitis in the clinical setting. Misdiagnoses can cause iatrogenic harm from applying unnecessary immunosuppressive therapies. Her research leads to earlier diagnosis and appropriate treatment to ultimately improve patient outcomes.