Today’s Top Alzheimer’s News


A March 16, 2017 Fierce Biotech article noted the new White House budget ("blueprint" and subject to change), obtained last night, will drastically reduce funding for research and science. George Vradenburg, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Co-founder and Chairman said, “We are unalterably opposed with the deep cuts proposed to NIH and medical research programs, which would threaten to undo the years of gains made in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The most direct path to health care cost savings is investing in research to achieve treatments and cures. Bipartisan leadership in Congress has strongly supported this path, and we urge Congress to reject the Administration’s proposed cuts.” Alzheimer’s researchers said that at least $2 billion a year at NIH is needed to stop Alzheimer’s by 2025. Read UsAgainstAlzheimer’s full statement. The budget proposes to take $5.8 billion away from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), around 20% of its total budget. The Department of Energy's Office of Science is set to lose $900 million, also 20% of its $5 billion budget, which supports research for around 300 universities and 10 national labs. The Department of Health and Human Services’ budget would be reduced by 17.9%. FDA user fees are set to rise, potentially double. According to the budget, "In a constrained budget environment, industries that benefit from FDA’s approval can and should pay for their share."


A March 15, 2017 Daily Bruin article reported on the negative effect that donepezil (commonly known as Aricept), an FDA-approved Alzheimer’s medication, can have on people with MCI (mild cognitive impairment), who carry the BChE-K genetic variation. Using data collected from a 2005 trial of donepezil, Sophie Sokolow, Associate Professor, UCLA School of Nursing, noted lower scores on cognitive function tests by some MCI patients carrying BChE-K. “I had access to the data (from the clinical trial), so I reanalyzed the data collected during the trial because (the researchers) didn’t look at genetics. They just looked at the disease, so we looked at how patients with this mutation respond differently than those who don’t have it,” Sokolow said. Aricept is sometimes prescribed “off-label” for MCI patients, which is not approved by the FDA. “People (with MCI) have some mild memory problems, but these problems would not be interfering with their everyday lives. Right now, there aren’t any FDA-approved treatments for mild cognitive impairment,” said Edmond Teng, Clinical Neurology Physician, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.


A March 15, 2017 NPR segment and article reported on nilotinib, an approved leukemia drug, which may be able to treat both Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s by eliminating toxic proteins that build-up in the brain by activating a mechanism in the cells that act as a garbage disposal of sorts. In a small 2015 trial, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found that it appears to help people with Parkinson's and a related form of dementia. Now, Georgetown is launching two larger and more rigorous trials, with FDA input, one with 75 Parkinson's patients, the other with 42 Alzheimer's patients. The Georgetown studies are enrolling patients now and will take more than a year to complete. Information about the Alzheimer's study is available here. "Our drug goes into the cells to turn on that garbage disposal mechanism. And if we're able to degrade these proteins, we could potentially stop the progression of this disorder,” says Fernando Pagan, Medical Director, Translational Neurotherapeutics, Georgetown.


A March 16, 2017 Winston-Salem Journal article reported on Dan Gasby’s appearance highlighting Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s new Alzheimer’s Center, funded by an $8.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Gasby is the husband of B. Smith, former restaurateur and model, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s and has been very public about her diagnosis. One focus of the new center is research on early identification of Alzheimer’s. By the time a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the brain has been deteriorating for 15 to 20 years. The new center, one of 31 in the country, serves the Southeast, which has the highest rate of AD in the US. “The African-American community is the canary in the coal mine in America, so what happens to us usually ends up happening to the general population later,” Gasby said. “Of all diseases, this is the most dramatic because this is the one that separates you from your humanness.”


A March 15, 2017 UCSF article reported on a new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, from a multi-institutional collaboration between UC San Francisco, UCLA, and Thomas Jefferson University, which applied a new analytic approach using neuroimaging to distinguish between depression and dementia. Many cognitive and psychiatric disorders have overlapping symptoms or even present together, so it can be difficult distinguish among various conditions. Depression is a major risk factor for dementia, however, root biological causes of the two conditions are very different and therefore require different courses of treatment. Utilizing the neuroimaging scans, researchers identified distinct profiles for each condition with 86% accuracy. “Being able to correctly diagnose the source of cognitive problems is helpful in guiding optimal treatment,” said study co-author, Cyrus Raji, MD, PhD, UCSF clinical fellow, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging.

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