New Alzheimer’s treatments, strategies to be discussed at Future of Alzheimer’s webinar


CHARLESTON — One day, in the not too distant future, doctors will be able to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease using tests that are cost effective, accessible and reliable so that new drug treatments work more effectively.

The pinpointing of the disease is happening in research settings. The goal is to translate that ability to physician offices so that doctors can confirm brain changes connected to Alzheimer’s disease and match the right therapies. “Many people are getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s who may not have Alzheimer’s. We’re moving toward an error-free era that is going to be necessary. You should not be giving someone an anti-amyloid treatment if they do not have amyloid in their brains,” said Dr. Rebecca M. Edelmayer, Senior Director of Scientific Engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Researchers today are advancing a wide variety of strategies to unlock a range of new treatments for Alzheimer’s, a fatal, progressive brain disease impacting more than six million people in the United States. In addition to strategies targeting beta-amyloid proteins and tau proteins in the brain, Dr. Edelmayer said researchers are also investigating how to make the immune system more effective and strategies that target the health of blood vessels in the brain.

On February 24, Dr. Edelmayer will lead a panel of researchers to discuss the latest advancements in the Alzheimer’s field at a webinar sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association called “The Future of Alzheimer’s Research and Treatments.” The free public event, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., will include a Q&A session where people can ask questions. The public can pre-register at alz.org/R10Future to receive the Zoom link to join the event.

Other panelists are:

• Marc W. Haut, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor and Director of the Memory Health Clinic at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University

• Jagan Pillai, M.D., Ph.D., Neurologist at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Cleveland Clinic and Associate Professor of Neurology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

• Bruno Giordani, Ph.D., Senior Director of the Mary A. Rackham institute in the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School and Associate Director of the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center

In West Virginia, 39,000 people ages 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Dr. Haut said, more people should be knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s disease because “Alzheimer’s disease affects almost half of the population by age 85 and there are currently limited treatment choices and no known cure. However, the pace of the development of potential disease modifying treatments has accelerated in the last 10 years. The more people understand about the disease and attempts at treatment the more likely individuals will be willing to participate in clinical trials and it is only through clinical trials that we will find a cure.”

Sharon Covert, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter, said the purpose of the event is to equip people with an overview of Alzheimer’s research and provide knowledge about what the Alzheimer’s Association is doing to drive new discoveries in the research field.

While there is a lot of debate about Aducanumab/Aduhelm, the first FDA-approved treatment that could slow the course of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Edelmayer said people should not expect that one drug will cure Alzheimer’s because it is a complex disease.

“There is not going to be a single treatment or a single drug that is going to be able to stop it in its course. It’s going to require a combination of effective medications and better lifestyle interventions to help reduce risk and to change the trajectory of the disease and that includes things we can change or may be able to change,” Dr. Edelmayer said.

Just like cancer treatments, Dr. Edelmayer said researchers need to develop second and third-generation therapies that target different types of dementia. “We still need to build the library of options that are available to people,” she said. While anti-amyloid treatments are some of the most mature in the therapeutics pipeline, Dr. Edelmayer said, “There are over 100 different types of drugs, unique approaches that are not anti-amyloid and many of them are in the pipeline today in phase one, phase two, and phase three trials.”

“You may see in the future someone taking an anti-amyloid plus an anti-tau treatment plus something to help with neuroinflammation,” she said.

Dr. Haut said the most exciting development for him has been the FDA’s approval of Aducanumab for the treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and mild Alzheimer’s disease early last summer.  “While this approval has generated a great deal of controversy, I believe the controversies have reinvigorated the field and stimulated new thoughts and efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Haut said. “Remember it is very likely that the first person who will be cured of Alzheimer’s is likely alive today.”

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