Tag Archives: alzheimers

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Ladies fight: Women face higher risk for Alzheimer’s

Every 67 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is no longer considered another ailment of getting older, but rather an epidemic because of the staggering increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses, particularly among women. Statistics show that one in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease. With Baby Boomers aging, this number is estimated to rise to one in six women, compared with one in 11 men who will be affected by the disease. Alzheimer’s robs loved ones of their memories and eventually the capacity to function. It is just as detrimental to the individual with Alzheimer’s as to the family members who are left to take care of them.

The epidemic could be just as deadly to the healthcare system. If nothing is done before the impending influx of women who will be diagnosed with the disease in the upcoming years, “We risk bankrupting our current healthcare system,” said Jessica Langbaum, principal scientist at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix. “If we do nothing and maintain the status quo, we will not be able to handle the surge of patients with Alzheimer’s because we are not equipped for it now.”

Medical experts fear that the current healthcare system will cripple under the stress caring for the increasing number of people who will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Already, the statistics show that women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than they are to develop breast cancer.

PAYING THE BILL
There are 78 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. Each day, about 10,000 of them turn 65, which is the at-risk age for being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The majority of them are women.
“We are already starting to see an increase in women with Alzheimer’s,” said Lori Whitesell, owner of SYNERGY Home Care.

This can only complicate the expenses and funds being paid by Medicare and Medicaid, which are already expected to be responsible for a $150 billion bill this year to treat patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is projected to reach $214 billion within the next two years. As of right now, each family can expect to pay about $56,800 a year for a family member with Alzheimer’s, making it the most expensive disease in the country.

In 2011, President Barack Obama recognized the growing concern and signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). This project is designed to create and maintain an integrated national plan to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. The plan is to coordinate research and services across all of the federal agencies that are focusing their energy on the disease, as well as accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, cure or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a race to figure out what to do,” said Bob Roth, managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, “and, thankfully, everyone is working together.”
NAPA hopes to increase early detection and wants to be able to prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025.

Alzheimer’s 10 warning signs

ARIZONA HIT HARD
Despite the government’s efforts, it is only a matter of time before the epidemic of Alzheimer’s hits America. Out of the 5 million people who currently suffer from Alzheimer’s, 3.2 million are women. In Arizona alone, 11 percent of the seniors have Alzheimer’s. It is the fifth-leading cause of death in the state and it is estimated that in 2014 there will be a total of 120,000 seniors with Alzheimer’s in Arizona. It has been found that more senior citizens die from Alzheimer’s than prostate and breast cancer combined. Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death among the Top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

To compound the problem, there are currently not enough care facilities, hospitals or caregivers in the U.S. to help take care of the Baby Boomer generation, which is expected to raise the number of people with Alzheimer’s to 16 million people by 2025.

“The statistics that we have now are probably an underestimation because of the people that are trying to hide the fact that they have the disease,” said Roth, who is also on the board for the Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Roth said many senior citizens are either afraid of what will happen to them or they ignore the symptoms of the disease. Studies have shown that women tend to live longer than men and will be widowed or separated from their families for the last 10 to15 years of their lives, which severely limits the number of people who can help support them.

HARD TO UNDERSTAND
Not only is it hard to know what will happen in the near future with our healthcare system, but the disease itself is still very misunderstood. It is known that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. In the beginning stages, the memory loss is mild; however, as the illness advances to the later stages, the patient loses the ability to carry on a conversation as well as the loss of motor functions.

Scientists have yet to find the real cause of this disease, but they believe that it starts in the brain cells, also known as neurons. The brain has more than 100 billion neurons that connect with each other to form a communication network. Researchers think that Alzheimer’s is created by an amyloid plaque buildup between the neurons, which prevents the brain cells from working properly. This causes a breakdown of the brain’s communication system and the cells lose the ability to do their job. The cells eventually die and cause irreversible damage to the brain. As the neurons die, the entire brain shrinks from tissue loss. Due to the amount of brain damage, the average person with Alzheimer’s lives about eight years.

lower your risk Alzheimer’s

Currently, there are 10 million women in the U.S. who have Alzheimer’s or are caring for someone with the disease. Most caregivers are unpaid and work without any support. They usually have to give up their jobs because taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is a 24-hour-a-day job. There are two and a half times as many women providing intensive care for Alzheimer’s patients than men. Women who take on the role of full-time caregiver are strongly encouraged to use respite care so that they can get the breaks needed to be able to take care of themselves.

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is the largest Alzheimer’s research facility in the country. It is recognized as a world leader in brain imaging research. It uses advanced brain imaging techniques that help researchers detect and track any brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s before memory loss and thinking issues arise. On Feb. 7, 2012, the Obama administration announced a historic investment of $156 million to Alzheimer’s research.

“We’re so grateful for the funds that Obama gave us, but we need more,” Langbaum said. ““It’s wonderful that the government has made (Alzheimer’s research) a priority, but a lot needs to happen before we can find a cure or a treatment by the deadline they have set in 2025. Right now, we don’t have the funds to do that.”

brain

5 Brain-Health Tips from Bodybuilding Neurosurgeon

As a fitness expert and neurosurgeon, Dr. Brett Osborn says he appreciates the growing public interest in general health and fitness. Now, he says, that attention needs to extend to arguably our most essential organ – the brain.

“There are several, multi-billion dollar industries out there dedicated to burning fat and building muscle; cognitive health, on the other hand, has been largely overlooked,” says Osborn, author of “Get Serious, A Neurosurgeon’s Guide to Optimal Health and Fitness.”

“Of course, any good health expert is quick to remind readers that it’s all connected. For example, what’s good for the heart will be, directly or indirectly, good for the brain.”

September’s an appropriate time to talk brain health: its World Alzheimer’s Month, and it’s the beginning of football season. By now, we know that football players in the NFL, college and even high school suffer considerable head trauma, whether through big hits resulting in concussions or moderate, repeated blows, he says.

It’s also soccer season in other parts of the world. Concern continues to mount about the neurological damage done to players from repeated headers, where the ball is hit by the head. The long-term effects, including depression and other mental-health problems, are similar to those suffered by American football players, he says.

“Sports can impart great habits to kids, including discipline, fellowship and an emphasis on strength and endurance,” says Osborn, a bodybuilder and father. “As our children return to school and sports, health-care providers, coaches and parents need to make it a top priority to protect our student-athletes’ brains.”

Osborn offers five tips to help everyone maintain brain health:

• Learn new skills. “Just as with other health concerns, brain health should be rooted in the prevention of disease,” he says. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, the causes of which, and the cure, are unknown. However, it’s widely thought that brain stimulation and activity can delay the onset of the disease. The acquisition of a new skill – whether it’s learning to play an instrument or taking up waterskiing – exercises the brain “muscle.”

• Commit to actual exercise. Everyone knows that exercise helps protect the heart, but not everyone knows that physical activity is also good for the brain. The brain is not a muscle, but it can be worked as muscle is worked during exercise, which forges new neuron pathways.

“Let’s face it, there is a component of learning in exercise,” Osborn says. “You cannot master the squat overnight; the brain has to change. Neuronal connections, or ‘synapses,’ are formed through very complex biophysical mechanisms. That takes time.”

• Don’t sweat stress. There is such a thing as good stress, including the acute bodily stress involved in strength training. Of course, there’s the bad stress, such as psychological stress associated with work or interpersonal relationships, and environmental stress, derived from pesticide-laden food – toxins. As always, you have a choice. You don’t have to accept mental stress in your life. Reconsider toxic relationships. Rethink how you handle pressure at work. Perhaps adopt a lunchtime exercise routine.

• Fuel a better body and brain. “I don’t believe in ‘diets,’ ” Osborn says. “Fit individuals were around for eons before the term existed, and I associate the term with temporary and, often, self-destructive behaviors.”

Again, it’s all connected. A healthy balance of food and activity will inevitably be good for the entire body: the heart, skeleton, muscles, brain, etc. Proper nutrition is a natural mood enhancer, and good health will inevitably improve self-esteem.

• Feed your head with smart drugs. Some pharmaceuticals may help enhance cerebral blood flow and increase concentration, including Hydergine, Deprenyl and Prozac, to name a few. Ask your doctor about these. There are also over-the-counter smart drugs to consider. Piracetam is one of the oldest and has been shown to have a variety of positive effects in patients with cognitive disorders like dementia and epilepsy. Vinpocetine has potent anti-inflammatory effects, and inflammation is a key component in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and others. You may also want to check out gingko biloba and pregnenolone.

alzheimers

Banner Alzheimer’s Institute partners with Novartis

Jessica Langbaum, Ph.D.

Jessica Langbaum, Ph.D.

Researchers from the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) today announced a partnership with Novartis in a pioneering medical trial to determine whether two investigational anti-amyloid drugs—an active immunotherapy and an oral medication—can prevent or delay the emergence of symptoms of Alzheimer’s in people at particularly high risk for developing the disease at older ages.

The five-year APOE4 trial will involve more than 1,300 cognitively healthy older adults, ages 60 to 75, at high risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s because they inherited two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene—one from each parent. About 2 percent of the world’s population carries two copies of this gene and one in four people carry one copy of the APOE4 gene, which is strongly linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s.

The trial—subject to regulatory authority approval—will begin in 2015 at approximately 60 sites in Europe and North America, including BAI’s headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz. Participants will receive either the active immunotherapy or the oral medication or a placebo.

The study is partially funded by a $33.2 million grant commitment from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded in 2013, and
more than $15 million in philanthropic and in-kind contributions by Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation. It is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising prevention therapies.

Today’s announcement of the partnership with Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, and the selection of the drugs to be studied, represent a dramatic investment in novel approaches to Alzheimer’s prevention research.

“We hope Novartis’s substantial investment of resources and expertise will lead to a significant breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, study director for BAI, an arm of Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in the United States. “We are taking clinical trials to a critical new stage. This approach shifts the research paradigm from trying to reverse disease damage to attacking and preventing its cause, years before symptoms could surface.”

The active immunotherapy is aimed at triggering the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that attack different forms of the amyloid protein, which many researchers have suggested plays a critical role in the development of Alzheimer’s. The oral medication is a BACE (beta-secretase1) inhibitor, designed to prevent the production of different forms of the amyloid protein.

The two drugs, which will be tested separately, are intended to stop the accumulation of amyloid in ways that differ from the anti-amyloid antibody therapies now being tested in API’s Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer’s Disease (ADAD) trial in Colombia, and in two other prevention trials. The drugs are being introduced even before amyloid accumulates in some of the participants’ brains. The trial will increase the chance of finding treatments that will prevent, slow or delay the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities associated with Alzheimer’s.

The new study marks the second major trial associated with API. In 2012, NIH announced the long-term ADAD study of cognitively healthy individuals who are destined to develop Alzheimer’s at an unusually early age because of their genetic history. The $100 million study—funded by NIH, BAI and Genentech, a biotechnology company—is focused on approximately 300 members of an extraordinarily large family from Colombia who share a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45.

The ADAD study, a partnership of BAI, Genentech and the University of Antioquia in Colombia, is evaluating the amyloid antibody agent crenezumab.

“There are no guarantees that any of these investigational treatments will prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, one of the study directors for BAI. “But we are grateful for these opportunities to find out.”

The APOE4 and ADAD trials will be critical in determining whether anti-amyloid treatments are likely to show benefit for Alzheimer’s. Both trials include the best-established cognitive and biological measures of the disease, and a strategy that might make it possible to substantially shorten the time needed to conduct future prevention trials. Both trials also include precedent-setting agreements for the sharing of study data and biological samples after the studies conclude.

Volunteers for the APOE4 study will receive either active immunotherapy injections or a BACE inhibitor in pill form or a placebo. Participants will be recruited via multiple venues, including the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry website created by BAI in 2012. The registry (www.endALZnow.org) currently has more than 37,000 potential volunteers and is aiming to recruit more than 250,000.

The APOE4 study’s new website, which will launch in 2015, will create a platform to explain the study, register potential participants and provide disclosure information and consent forms. Volunteers who meet the study criteria will be asked to mail a sample of their genetic material (such as a cheek swab) to a laboratory. The volunteers will learn the results of that test in the context of possibly enrolling in the trial.

“This web research platform creates a powerful tool for any additional Alzheimer’s research,” said Jessica Langbaum, Ph.D., co-director of the study at BAI. “This infrastructure enables us to create more than just a single drug trial, but rather a template for testing a variety of treatments for many years to come.”

Volunteers who are selected will receive genetic counseling, as will others who are not chosen but who seek more information on their vulnerability. “We are keenly aware of the extreme sensitivity and emotional impact of disclosing genetic information,” Dr. Langbaum said. Volunteers accepted into the trial will already know they are at high risk, while others may learn of a lesser but still increased risk. For both of these groups, BAI will be providing more detailed information and genetic counseling in person, by phone or possibly through video-conferencing or telemedicine.

“We are excited about the chance to partner with Novartis, which has a longstanding commitment to the fight against Alzheimer’s and promising investigational treatments. They will conduct this study in a way that will be helpful to all stakeholders in the field,” said Dr. Tariot.

“We are now coming to believe that attacking Alzheimer’s disease, before clinical signs of memory loss and cognitive impairment become evident, may provide our best chance for effective therapies,” says Dr. Neil Buckholtz, Director of the Division of Neuroscience at the NIA. “These studies will be important in helping to determine if and how that can be done.”

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older, according to a number of estimates. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

alzheimers

NIH grants Banner Alzheimer’s Institute $33M

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) announces a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. An NIH grant, expected to total $33.2 million, will support this research.

The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will test an anti-amyloid treatment in about 650 adults, ages 60-75, who have two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. None of the participants will have impairments in memory or thinking at the time they enter the study.

“Once again, we are extremely grateful to the NIH for the opportunity to help accelerate the evaluation of treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s and find ones that work as soon as possible,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “This trial will allow us to extend our work to individuals at greatest risk at older ages.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which will take place at BAI and other U.S. sites, will test the treatment’s ability to stave off the memory and thinking declines associated with Alzheimer’s. It will also assess the treatment’s effects on different brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid measurements of the disease. The specific compound to be evaluated has not been decided.

The trial will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the disease’s progression.  Major funding from philanthropy and industry will also support the trial, and its leaders expect to provide data and biological samples to the research community after the trial’s conclusion to help in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s.
Individuals in the study will learn their APOE4 status. To help them prepare for this information, BAI has convened an expert committee to develop a comprehensive genetic testing and disclosure plan and to assess the impact of this disclosure during the trial.
“Under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, our goal is to prevent and effectively treat the disorder by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health.  “We are delighted to support Dr. Reiman, Dr. Tariot and their team in this innovative clinical trial aimed at preventing the onset and progression of this devastating disease.”

The research is intended to complement API’s initial trial, which is primarily focused in Colombia and involves about 300 people from an extended family with a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. That work also is focusing on an anti-amyloid therapy and its potential in slowing or blocking the disease while preserving cognitive abilities. The investigation, including a smaller U.S. companion study, dovetails with prevention trials that have been planned or started by other research groups during the past 16 months.
“We are now looking at potential treatments to prevent both the early and late onset forms of the disease,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, BAI Director. “This kind of comprehensive approach could prove the tipping point in our long, arduous effort to find a way to end this devastating disease.”

The new trial will draw participants mainly from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (www.endALZnow.org), an online community of people who are committed to helping in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Registry provides regular updates on the latest scientific advances, as well as information on overall brain health. To overcome one of the biggest obstacles to clinical research, the Registry supports enrollment in a variety of Alzheimer’s prevention studies within members’ communities.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects more than 5.2 million Americans, with a new diagnosis every 68 seconds. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

alzheimers

NIH grants Banner Alzheimer's Institute $33M

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) announces a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. An NIH grant, expected to total $33.2 million, will support this research.

The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will test an anti-amyloid treatment in about 650 adults, ages 60-75, who have two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. None of the participants will have impairments in memory or thinking at the time they enter the study.

“Once again, we are extremely grateful to the NIH for the opportunity to help accelerate the evaluation of treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s and find ones that work as soon as possible,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “This trial will allow us to extend our work to individuals at greatest risk at older ages.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which will take place at BAI and other U.S. sites, will test the treatment’s ability to stave off the memory and thinking declines associated with Alzheimer’s. It will also assess the treatment’s effects on different brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid measurements of the disease. The specific compound to be evaluated has not been decided.

The trial will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the disease’s progression.  Major funding from philanthropy and industry will also support the trial, and its leaders expect to provide data and biological samples to the research community after the trial’s conclusion to help in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s.
Individuals in the study will learn their APOE4 status. To help them prepare for this information, BAI has convened an expert committee to develop a comprehensive genetic testing and disclosure plan and to assess the impact of this disclosure during the trial.
“Under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, our goal is to prevent and effectively treat the disorder by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health.  “We are delighted to support Dr. Reiman, Dr. Tariot and their team in this innovative clinical trial aimed at preventing the onset and progression of this devastating disease.”

The research is intended to complement API’s initial trial, which is primarily focused in Colombia and involves about 300 people from an extended family with a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. That work also is focusing on an anti-amyloid therapy and its potential in slowing or blocking the disease while preserving cognitive abilities. The investigation, including a smaller U.S. companion study, dovetails with prevention trials that have been planned or started by other research groups during the past 16 months.
“We are now looking at potential treatments to prevent both the early and late onset forms of the disease,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, BAI Director. “This kind of comprehensive approach could prove the tipping point in our long, arduous effort to find a way to end this devastating disease.”

The new trial will draw participants mainly from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (www.endALZnow.org), an online community of people who are committed to helping in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Registry provides regular updates on the latest scientific advances, as well as information on overall brain health. To overcome one of the biggest obstacles to clinical research, the Registry supports enrollment in a variety of Alzheimer’s prevention studies within members’ communities.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects more than 5.2 million Americans, with a new diagnosis every 68 seconds. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

Dr. Oddo

New Researcher Joins Banner Sun Health Institute

Dr. Salvatore Oddo, a leader in the development of genetically-engineered mouse models and their use in the study of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, will join the research team at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute (BSHRI) as a Senior Scientist and as an Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Oddo comes to Arizona from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where he served as an assistant professor in the physiology department. He starts at BSHRI on July 1.

Oddo and his colleagues continue to develop genetically-modified mouse models and study them in the effort to clarify some of the molecular and cellular disease mechanisms responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, to discover new treatments and to help test some of the treatments that are being considered for evaluation in clinical trials. Using the “triple transgenic mouse model” that he and his colleagues first developed at the University of California, Irvine, they have already made a number of pioneering contributions to the field.

His arrival marks the first of several joint recruitments that are planned between Banner and the medical college to advance the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides an opportunity to expand the resources and collaborations involved in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, the nation’s leading model of statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s research. While Oddo’s lab will be based at BSHRI, he will work closely with his new colleagues in the medical college and other organizations in the Consortium.

“I am extremely proud to become part of a fantastic Alzheimer’s disease research team and to establish my laboratory at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute,” Oddo said. “I look forward to developing new and stimulating collaborations with the faculty to identify new therapeutic targets for this terrible disorder.”

Oddo, who earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Catania, Italy and his graduate degree in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory from the University of California, Irvine, has served as an assistant researcher at the University of California Irvine’s department of neurobiology and behavior. He is moving from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where currently he is an assistant professor in the department of physiology.

“This is the first and critical step in what will be an extremely robust partnership between the Banner Sun Health Research Institute and our college,” said Stuart D. Flynn, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. “Dr. Oddo is playing an important role in the research of Alzheimer’s disease, of critical importance as we address an aging population in Arizona and beyond.”

“We are pleased to welcome someone with Dr. Oddo’s scientific caliber and extraordinary productivity,” said Marwan Sabbagh, Director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute. “Dr. Oddo is a valuable addition to what is already a world-class team. We look forward to work ahead.”

medical.research

BIO5-TGen collaboration targets Alzheimer’s disease

BIO5 Oro Valley today announced a collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to develop new therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

BIO5 Oro Valley co-Director and University of Arizona College of Pharmacy medicinal chemist Dr. Christopher Hulme’s collaborative effort with TGen Assistant Professor Dr. Travis Dunckley will focus on the development of novel, small molecule inhibitors of dual-specificity tyrosine phosphorylation-regulated kinase 1A (DYRK1A). Upregulation of this kinase is implicated in promoting memory deficits associated with Down syndrome and neurodegenerative pathologies, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

“DYRK1A is a well-validated, recently discovered target, ready for translational efforts to deliver an oral medication to patients suffering from this insidious disease,” said Dr. Hulme. “Indeed, coupled with the advanced small molecules in-hand that target DYRK1A, further efforts are underway that will broaden our therapeutic presence in the Alzheimer’s arena to other Arizona-based biological discoveries.”

Statistics from the National Institutes of Health indicate that 5.1 million older Americans – or 1-in-8 – suffer from Alzheimer’s, which makes it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Estimated to effect 45 million people worldwide by 2020, dementia is currently a leading, major unmet medical need and a costly burden on public health. Seventy percent of these cases have been attributed to Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative pathology characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive functions.

“This collaborative partnership is a critical step in advancing discoveries of the role DYRK1A plays to developing therapeutics that could alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Dunckley.

Drs. Hulme and Dunckley will focus on providing a significant alternative to common approaches that focus on small molecules that inhibit the production of neurotoxic fragments of amyloid proteins and antibody immunization approaches targeting the build up of these fragments.

The joint effort will explore the decrease of DYRK1A activity in the brain with proprietary small-molecule inhibitors. This approach could lead to new therapeutic strategies to alleviate cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome.

banner alzheimers foundation - brain research

Banner Alzheimers Foundation Launches $40 Million Campaign

Banner Alzheimers Foundation (BAF), the philanthropic resource for Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI), announces a $40 million campaign to advance some of the most challenging yet promising research to stop Alzheimer’s disease. The BAI Breakthrough will support cutting-edge studies aimed at treating and preventing the disease, state-of-the-art brain imaging and an unparalleled model of patient and family care.

The campaign will designate $15 million to help fund the groundbreaking research that BAI recently announced in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and others. This prevention trial, which will span two countries, will test an amyloid immunization therapy and is the first ever conducted with cognitively healthy individuals who are certain to develop Alzheimer’s because of their genetic history.

The campaign’s remaining $25 million will support additional studies of both the preclinical and symptomatic stages of the disease; critical technology for a new 18,000-square-foot imaging center; and expansion of BAI’s comprehensive model of care to serve as the standard nationwide.

The BAI Breakthrough officially launched this spring with a $6 million gift from the Stead Family Foundation. Mary Joy and Jerre Stead are long-time supporters of BAI and chairs of the campaign’s leadership cabinet. He is also chairman of the BAF board.

“We absolutely believe prevention of Alzheimer’s will become a reality through BAI’s research efforts,” Jerre Stead says. “Yet, not only is BAI working on behalf of future generations, it is taking care of individuals and families dealing right now with the impact of this devastating disease. Mary Joy and I feel privileged to be a part of this effort and encourage others to get involved.”

About 5.4 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, a debilitating and incurable disease of the brain. By 2030, that number could exceed 7.7 million, and by 2050, as many as 16 million Americans could have Alzheimer’s. The disease takes an enormous physical, emotional and financial toll on individuals, caregivers and families.

Dr. Eric Reiman, BAI executive director and CEO of Banner Research, applauds the role that philanthropy is playing here in advancing research and care.

“We could not be more grateful to Jerre and Mary Joy Stead for their leadership, passion and extraordinary support—and to so many people who provide the resources needed for us to fulfill our ambitious goals,” Reiman says. “Their support makes it possible for BAI to provide hope and help, research and care, and to give us the chance to make a transformational difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.”

The campaign is a collaboration between a team of renowned scientists and clinicians and an outstanding group of individuals, corporations and foundations dedicated to funding the breakthrough that could change lives for generations to come.

More information about Banner Alzheimers Foundation and The BAI Breakthrough or the work of BAI can be found at www.banneralz.org.

prevention trial - brain scan images

Alzheimer’s Prevention Trial Announced

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI), University of Antioquia in Colombia and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, announce the first-ever prevention trial in cognitively healthy individuals who are destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease because of their genetic history. This groundbreaking study—the first to investigate whether an anti-amyloid treatment can stave off the disease—will span two countries and help launch a new era of prevention research in the urgent fight against Alzheimer’s.

The $100 million trial is the cornerstone of a new international collaborative, the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), formed to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will study an experimental anti-amyloid antibody treatment called crenezumab in approximately 300 people from an extraordinarily large extended family in Colombia, who share a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. The trial will also include a smaller number of individuals in the United States. The API team will collaborate with researchers from the NIH-supported Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) to identify and recruit the U.S. participants.

The trial is designed to determine whether the drug can reduce participants’ chances of developing the disease’s disabling and irreversible symptoms, preserve memory and thinking abilities, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s biomarkers.

Drs. Eric M. Reiman and Pierre N. Tariot from the Phoenix-based BAI lead the broader initiative, and they also will be leading the trial in close cooperation with Genentech’s research and clinical team and a Colombian team headed by Dr. Francisco Lopera of Grupo de Neurociencias de Antioquia at the University of Antioquia. Together, these three groups designed the study with input from other prominent scientists and NIH and regulatory officials.

If crenezumab is shown to sustain memory and cognition in people certain to develop Alzheimer’s, prevention trials could be designed to test it and other anti-amyloid drugs in a larger segment of the population. If the treatment’s effects on brain imaging and other biological measurements of the disease are shown to predict its clinical benefit, the study could establish a much more rapid way to test future therapies.

“We are grateful for the chance to evaluate such a promising prevention treatment,” said Dr. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “We have tried to design the study in a way that might bring the field closer to ending Alzheimer’s before another generation is lost.”

The study will be supported with five-year NIH funding expected to total $16 million, as well as a BAI commitment of $15 million in philanthropic funds. Genentech will contribute the major share of funding, in addition to providing study drug and clinical and operational expertise integral to the design and conduct of the study. Given the importance of the trial, data and findings will be shared publicly after its completion to help the entire Alzheimer’s research community find faster ways to test promising prevention therapies.

“Genentech is very excited to be a part of this landmark effort,” said Richard H. Scheller, PhD, Executive Vice President, Research and Early Development at Genentech. “If the study demonstrates that we can prevent the disease in this special group of patients, it may pave the way to preventing Alzheimer’s in the general population.”

About 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today, a number expected to top 7.7 million by 2030. Globally, the disease and other dementias are expected to affect nearly 66 million by then.

The study represents a marked shift in researchers’ approach to detecting, treating and ultimately preventing Alzheimer’s. Many in the clinical and scientific community believe that by the time memory begins to slip and confusion and other thinking problems emerge, too much damage may already have occurred for some treatments, such as those focusing on amyloid, to be effective. They suspect that these potential therapies must instead be started before the onset of symptoms.

BAI researchers already have shown how advanced brain imaging, biomarkers and other measurements can identify and track subtle Alzheimer’s-associated changes in healthy people at genetic risk for the disease many years before its first clinical signs appear. They proposed using these tools in a prevention trial that would not require a lengthy wait for those symptoms.

The new study will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Preclinical studies indicate that crenezumab, an antibody therapy that Genentech is developing in collaboration with Swiss biotech company AC Immune SA, works by binding to amyloid proteins and clearing them from the brain. It has been studied in both healthy individuals and people with Alzheimer’s and currently is being evaluated in a Phase II clinical study in patients with mild to moderate symptoms. No significant safety issues have been detected to date. The drug was selected for this prevention trial with guidance from an expert advisory panel.

“The trial represents big hope for the people here,” Dr. Lopera said from Medellín, where he has followed generations of the families since the early 1980s. “For those with the genetic mutation, it is a chance to modify their destiny. For those who are not carriers, it is a chance to save loved ones. They all want a far different future.”

Among the Colombian as well as U.S. participants, crenezumab will be administered to individuals 30 and older with normal cognitive function. Participants in the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will receive an injection of crenezumab or placebo at set intervals for up to five years. Researchers will use advanced imaging techniques, cerebrospinal fluid tests and sensitive cognitive measures to monitor whether the accumulation of amyloid and other tell-tale proteins in the brain is reduced, whether brain size and function is maintained, and, most importantly, whether mental performance is preserved.

To avoid signaling the genetic status of participants, most of whom do not want to know if they have the   mutation, the study will include relatives who are non-carriers and will receive the placebo.

“We are cognizant of the responsibility that we face, not just to the scientific community but to the families who will be involved in our work,” said Dr. Tariot, BAI Director. “Yet the possibilities ahead are tremendous. If this approach to fighting Alzheimer’s is successful, it has the potential to transform all future prevention and treatment research and to herald the beginning of the end of this devastating disease.”

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, visit Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative’s website at endalznow.org.