Cancer Drug That Might Slow Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Headed For Bigger Tests

( Scientists are hoping that a single drug can treat two devastating brain diseases: Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The drug is nilotinib, which is approved to treat a form of leukemia.

In late 2015, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found that small doses of the drug appeared to help a handful of people with Parkinson’s disease and a related form of dementia. They’d tried the unlikely treatment because they knew nilotinib triggered cells to get rid of faulty components — including the ones associated with several brain diseases.

A colored magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain of a 76-year-old patient with dementia shows the brain has atrophied and the dark brown fluid-filled spaces have become enlarged. Zephyr/Science Source

Results of that preliminary study generated a lot of excitement because there is currently no treatment that can slow or halt the brain damage caused by either Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

“Our phones were basically (ringing) off the hook,” says Fernando Pagan, medical director of the translational neurotherapeutics program at Georgetown.

Many researchers were cautious, though.

“It was such a small trial, there was no placebo control and it really wasn’t designed to assess efficacy,” says J. Paul Taylor, chair of the cell and molecular biology department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

So Georgetown is launching two larger and more rigorous trials of nilotinib, both designed with input from the Food and Drug Administration. One of the trials will enroll 75 patients with Parkinson’s disease, the other will enroll 42 patients with Alzheimer’s.

“This is going to help us identify what might have been a placebo effect and what is truly the effect of the medication,” Pagan says.

Nilotinib seems to work by eliminating toxic proteins that build up in the brains of people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The drug activates a mechanism in brain cells that acts like a sort of garbage disposal, Pagan says.

“Our drug goes into the cells to turn on that garbage disposal mechanism,” Pagan says.

“And if we’re able to degrade these proteins, we could potentially stop the progression of this disorder.”

The primary goal of the studies is to learn whether this powerful cancer drug is safe enough for patients with brain diseases. But the new studies should also provide better evidence about whether the drug really works.

That possibility attracts patients like Jonathan Lessin, a former anesthesiologist in the Washington D.C. area. Lessin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 14 years ago, when he was just 38.

Parkinson’s gradually kills off brain cells that control movement. And for a decade after his diagnosis, drugs and a treatment called deep brain stimulation allowed Lessin to continue working. He retired several years ago, when his symptoms progressed to the point that he feared he might not be able to provide first-rate care for his patients.

Since then, the disease has caused Lessin’s speech to become slightly slurred. “It’s slowly progressing,” he says. “My balance is getting worse and worse. I’m falling more and more during the day. But I’m still able to do things like rock climb and ski and bike.”

Lessin has been able to stay active thanks to treatments that help control symptoms. But the disease continues to eat away areas of his brain.

So Lessin was excited to learn about the Georgetown study, which held the tantalizing prospect of a drug that just might slow or halt that process.

“I’ve always been riding the leading edge of treatment,” Lessin says. “And I just figured I’d go for it.”

As a former physician, Lessin fully understands the limitations of the earlier trial, and the risks of taking a powerful cancer drug. But as someone with Parkinson’s, he sees an opportunity.

“I’m very optimistic,” he says. “I’ve seen it cure Parkinson’s in mice. I’ve seen people who can talk again, walk again, which is very encouraging.”

There’s good reason for patients with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases to be optimistic these days, Taylor says.

Drugs like nilotinib are coming along because years of research have provided a much better understanding of how these damage the brain, he says.

“Now we’re in the payoff phase.”

Taylor still isn’t sure whether nilotinib will live up to its early promise. But, he says,

“If the results of this trial don’t turn out to be as exciting as the very tiny trial suggested, I would not get too pessimistic because there are other developments that are in the wings.”

The Georgetown studies are enrolling patients now and will take more than a year to complete.

Information about the Parkinson’s study can be found here. Information about the Alzheimer’s study is available here.


By Jon Hamilton

© 2017 npr


Alzheimer’s Death Toll Nearly Doubles in 15 Years

(WebMD) Alzheimer’s disease claims nearly twice as many American lives annually as it did just 15 years ago, a new report shows.

“And that’s frankly alarming,” said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, which produced the report.

“Now, a lot of people will think it’s because we’re living longer,” he added.

“And there is some truth to that. But there’s also an assumption that we should just expect to get Alzheimer’s disease as we get older. And that’s not true.

“Most people do not get Alzheimer’s, even if they live into their 80s or 90s. It’s not normal. It’s not something that we should accept. We’ve definitely got to do something about it,” Fargo said.

The report also found that more than 5 million American seniors aged 65 and older now live with the memory-robbing disease.

That represents approximately 10 percent of all the nation’s seniors, and that number is projected to jump to nearly 14 million by 2050. In fact, nearly half a million seniors are expected to develop the disease in 2017 alone.

Another 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 also struggle with the disease, the report found.

And those statistics come with a hefty price tag: It costs $259 billion a year for Alzheimer’s care. That amount is expected to reach $$1.1 trillion by 2050, the report estimated.

Dr. Anton Porsteinsson is director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, N.Y. He said the rising numbers likely reflect a number of different factors in play.

“Partly, it is due to increasing numbers of older individuals, partly due to success in treating other leading causes of death, and partly due to increasing awareness that AD [Alzheimer’s] is a lethal disease,” Porsteinsson said.

Among the report’s additional findings: Alzheimer’s is now the fifth leading cause of death among seniors; the sixth leading cause of fatalities among all Americans; and the only disease among the nation’s top 10 biggest killers for which there is no prevention, no way to slow progression and no cure.

“And the costs are now completely out of control,” added Fargo, with the total annual cost for Alzheimer’s and dementia care in excess of a quarter trillion dollars.

Another highlighted concern: the “especially burdensome” ordeal Alzheimer’s caregivers experience while attending to the needs of loved ones as the patient suffers across-the-board mental and physical decline.

In 2016, more than 15 million Alzheimer’s caregivers provided just over 18 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at $230 billion.

And those caregivers suffer their own health consequences: More than a third (35 percent) report their health has worsened since assuming caregiver duties, compared with 19 percent of caregivers for older people without dementia. Depression and anxiety also plague dementia caregivers more often, the report found.

Still, the report was not entirely bleak, spotlighting growing efforts to identify telltale signs of developing disease.

The goal is to hone in on neurological signs — including changes in brain size, shifts in spinal fluid content, and/or the growth of nerve plaques in the brain — that could allow rapid detection of pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a window into the future,” Fargo said.

“If you ask where Alzheimer’s disease research is headed, that’s where it’s headed.”

“We believe that in the coming years we’ll have tests that you can do in the doctor’s office that will let you know your risk for Alzheimer’s,” he noted. And that, he suggested, “could open the door for prevention.”

Fargo noted that, even in the absence of effective treatments or a cure, early diagnosis would be a boon for research and would give patients a head start on planning for their future.

Yet, Porsteinsson suggested that the future of these telltale signs, known as biomarkers, remains unclear.

“Biomarkers are particularly important when it comes to research and development of future potential treatments,” he said.

On the other hand, he stressed that “the utility of biomarkers in current care is intensely debated.

“The biomarkers are expensive,” Porsteinsson noted.

“And it is a question how much a positive or negative finding will change approach to care.

“Having said that,” he added, “it often matters greatly to patients and their families to know exactly what they have and what to expect.”


SOURCES: Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director, scientific programs and outreach, Alzheimer’s Association, New York City; Anton Porsteinsson, M.D., professor, psychiatry, and director, Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, N.Y.; March 7, 2017, 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved


Sugar’s “Tipping Point” Link to Alzheimer’s Disease Revealed

(University of Bath) For the first time a “tipping point” molecular link between the blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease has been established by scientists, who have shown that excess glucose damages a vital enzyme involved with inflammation response to the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Abnormally high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycaemia, is well-known as a characteristic of diabetes and obesity, but its link to Alzheimer’s disease is less familiar.

Diabetes patients have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy individuals. In Alzheimer’s disease abnormal proteins aggregate to form plaques and tangles in the brain which progressively damage the brain and lead to severe cognitive decline.

Scientists already knew that glucose and its break-down products can damage proteins in cells via a reaction called glycation but the specific molecular link between glucose and Alzheimer’s was not understood.

But now scientists from the University of Bath Departments of Biology and Biochemistry, Chemistry and Pharmacy and Pharmacology, working with colleagues at the Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases, King’s College London, have unraveled that link.

By studying brain samples from people with and without Alzheimer’s using a sensitive technique to detect glycation, the team discovered that in the early stages of Alzheimer’s glycation damages an enzyme called MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor) which plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation.

MIF is involved in the response of brain cells called glia to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease, and the researchers believe that inhibition and reduction of MIF activity caused by glycation could be the ‘tipping point’ in disease progression. It appears that as Alzheimer’s progresses, glycation of these enzymes increases.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Professor Jean van den Elsen, from the University of Bath Department of Biology and Biochemistry, said:

“We’ve shown that this enzyme is already modified by glucose in the brains of individuals at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We are now investigating if we can detect similar changes in blood.

“Normally MIF would be part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain, and we think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop.

Dr Rob Williams, also from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry, added:

“Knowing this will be vital to developing a chronology of how Alzheimer’s progresses and we hope will help us identify those at risk of Alzheimer’s and lead to new treatments or ways to prevent the disease.

Dr Omar Kassaar, from the University of Bath, added:

“Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.”

Globally there are around 50 million people with Alzheimer’s disease, and this figure is predicted to rise to more than 125 million by 2050. The global social cost of the disease runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars as alongside medical care patients require social care because of the cognitive effects of the disease.

The study was funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust. Human brain tissue for this study was provided through Brains for Dementia Research, a joint initiative between Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK in association with the Medical Research Council.


Journal Reference:

Omar Kassaar, Marta Pereira Morais, Suying Xu, Emily L. Adam, Rosemary C. Chamberlain, Bryony Jenkins, Tony James, Paul T. Francis, Stephen Ward, Robert J. Williams, Jean van den Elsen. Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor is subjected to glucose modification and oxidation in Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 42874 DOI: 10.1038/srep42874

© 2017 University of Bath


High Blood Pressure Onset in Late Life May Protect Against Dementia

(Alzheimer’s Association) New study results published online today in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association suggest that onset of high blood pressure later in life is associated with lower dementia risk after age 90, especially if hypertension is developed at age 80 or older.

High blood pressure and other heart health risk factors are generally thought to increase dementia risk. These new findings challenge this idea and add to scientists’ understanding of hypertension and dementia risk over a person’s life course.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and colleagues followed 559 people for an average of 2.8 years to investigate the relationship between dementia, age of hypertension onset, and blood pressure measurements. All participants are from an ongoing, long-term study of people age 90 and older known as The 90+ Study.

At enrollment, participants did not have dementia, were 93 years old on average, and 69 percent female. They received dementia assessments every six months during the study period. During the follow-up period, 224 (40%) of the participants were diagnosed with dementia.

The researchers found that study participants who reported hypertension onset at age 80 to 89 were 42 percent less likely to develop dementia after age 90 compared to those who reported no history of high blood pressure. Participants whose hypertension began at age 90 or older were at even lower risk–63 percent less likely to develop dementia. These associations were statistically significant and independent of whether participants were taking medications to treat hypertension.

“In this first-of-its-kind study, we find that hypertension is not a risk factor for dementia in people age 90 or over, but is actually associated with reduced dementia risk,” said first author Maria Corrada, M.S., Sc.D., Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology at the University of California, Irvine.

“This relationship had not yet been examined in groups of older people in their 80s or 90s, known as the ‘oldest old.'”

The authors also measured study participants’ blood pressure at enrollment. Those in the hypertensive range at baseline were at lower risk for dementia compared to those with blood pressure in the normal range. While these results were not statistically significant, the researchers observed that dementia risk declined as hypertension severity increased–a trend consistent with the idea that, in this age group, hypertension may protect the brain from insults that lead to dementia.

“These new findings suggest some risk factors for dementia may change over the course of our lives,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer.

“We have seen similar results in past studies comparing body mass in older adults with dementia risk.”

A study published in January 2008 of 255 people aged 75 or older living in the Kungsholmen borough of Stockholm, Sweden, found those who were overweight had a lower dementia risk. A study published in March the following year of almost 3,000 adults near age 75 on average who were part of an observational study called the Cardiovascular Health Study had similar results: those who were underweight had an increased risk for dementia while those who were obese had a reduced risk.

“Before we can make the leap to suggesting changes to blood pressure recommendations for reducing dementia risk in clinical care, we need more research to confirm and explain our findings,” said Dr. Corrada.

“This includes investigations into the underlying biology of hypertension and brain function.”

The authors suggest several potential reasons for the association between hypertension and dementia risk observed in the study. These include that blood pressure may need to reach a certain level to maintain adequate blood flow in the brain for normal cognition, and that this level may change with age. Another explanation that the authors note is less likely, but possible, is that blood pressure drops before the onset of dementia as a consequence of brain cell deterioration, and thus older people who are not developing dementia will have higher blood pressure.

The authors acknowledge the study has several limitations, including that participants were mostly women and all were residents of a large retirement community in Orange County, California, and therefore not representative of the entire “oldest old” population.

“We need to understand the bigger picture of what protects brain health throughout our entire lives, including our later years,” said Dr. Carrillo.

“Looking at dementia in this group is critical since it is the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population with the highest rate of dementia.”

“Age of Onset of Hypertension and Risk of Dementia in the Oldest Old: The 90+ Study” is available to subscribers of Alzheimer’s & Dementia at Preliminary results of this study were first presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in July 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


Medicare Now Provides Coverage for Critical Alzheimer’s Care and Support Services

(Alzheimer’s Association) For the over five million American living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, early detection and diagnosis is an important first step to managing their health. Currently, less than half of seniors diagnosed with dementia, or their caregivers, are aware of the diagnosis, even though Medicare covers the process for getting diagnosed.

Why is that? Studies show that one reason doctors don’t disclose the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, is because of the insufficient time and resources to provide support to patients and caregivers at the time of diagnosis, including a discussion of treatment options and support services.

However, recent developments show promise in addressing this critical gap in care and support. Starting this month, Medicare will reimburse doctors for taking the time to test for dementia, document the diagnosis and discuss care planning with their patients.

Care planning and documentation of a diagnosis are crucial to improving outcomes and quality of care. Care planning allows people to learn about treatment options, enroll in clinical trials and access support services. Studies suggest that care planning can improve the long-term health of caregivers, as well.

Documentation ensures all health care providers know of the diagnosis and can more effectively coordinate care and properly manage other chronic conditions, medications and care transitions.

Among people with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, over 85% have one or more other chronic conditions. Alzheimer’s complicates the management of these conditions, and thus increases cost. For example, care for a senior with diabetes and Alzheimer’s costs Medicare 81% more than the care for a senior who has diabetes but no Alzheimer’s.

The updates on Medicare coverage would help reduce cost by ensuring that critical steps are taken by health care providers to help families immediately after a diagnosis. This recent development is a result of the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act (Health Outcomes, Planning and Education for Alzheimer’s Act S. 857 / H.R. 1559).

Specifically, under the Hope for Alzheimer’s Act, Medicare beneficiaries, who are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, would receive coverage for comprehensive care planning services for themselves and their caregivers.

In an analysis by former Congressional Budget Office staff, this new legislation is estimated to reduce federal spending by $692 million over the next ten years. Savings would come from reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits among seniors, and some savings resulting from better medication and other chronic condition management.

Alzheimer’s Association grassroots advocates and staff have held thousands of congressional meetings to secure support for the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act since the bill’s introduction, and have worked tirelessly to secure support for the benefit at The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). We will continue to engage CMS to ensure the service’s maximum impact for people living with the disease and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s Association

We can Help:

Citation medicare-coverage-critical-alzheimers-care-support-services/

Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada © 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Benzodiazepines and Related Drugs Increase Stroke Risk in Alzheimer’s Disease

(University of Eastern Finland) The use of benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of stroke among persons with Alzheimer’s disease, shows a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland. Benzodiazepines were associated with a similar risk of stroke as benzodiazepine-like drugs.

The use of benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs was associated with an increased risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke, whereas the association with hemorrhagic stroke was not significant. However, due to the small number of hemorrhagic stroke events in the study population, the possibility of such an association cannot be excluded.

The findings are important, as benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs were not previously known to predispose to strokes or other cerebrovascular events. Cardiovascular risk factors were taken into account in the analysis and they did not explain the association.

The findings encourage a careful consideration of the use of benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs among persons with Alzheimer’s disease, as stroke is one of the leading causes of death in this population group. Earlier, the researchers have also shown that these drugs are associated with an increased risk of hip fracture.

The study was based on data from a nationwide register-based study (MEDALZ) conducted at the University of Eastern Finland in 2005–2011. The study population included 45,050 persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 22 per cent of them started using benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine-like drugs.

The findings were published in International Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Research article:

Taipale H, Koponen M, Tanskanen A, Lavikainen P, Tolppanen AM, Sund R, Tiihonen J, Hartikainen S. Use of benzodiazepines and related drugs is associated with risk of stroke among persons with Alzheimer’s disease. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, published online January 7, 2017. doi: 10.1097/YIC.0000000000000161.

Copyright University of Eastern Finland


Alzheimer’s Falls More Heavily on Women Than on Men

(Scientific American) Distinct biological and genetic factors may shape how it progresses in women—and understanding them could be crucial to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

For more than 25 years, Mary Read was a successful nurse in Lititz, Pennsylvania. But in 2010, at the age of 50, she started having trouble with her memory and thinking, making it difficult for her to complete routine tasks and follow instructions at work. The problems worsened, bringing her career to an abrupt end. In 2011, her doctor conducted a comprehensive evaluation, including a cognitive assessment, and found that she was in the early stages of younger-onset Alzheimer’s, which affects hundreds of thousands of people under 65.

A year earlier, Elizabeth Wolf faced another sort of upheaval. The 36-year-old community health program director was forced to abandon her own career, home and community in Vermont when both of her parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three months apart. Wolf took the difficult decision to move back into her childhood home in Mount Laurel, New Jersey in order to become their primary caregiver.

These stories are not unusual. Alzheimer’s dementia disproportionately affects women in a variety of ways. Compared with men, 2.5 times as many women as men provide 24-hour care for an affected relative. Nearly 19 percent of these wives, sisters and daughters have had to quit work to do so. In addition, women make up nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, an estimated 3.3 million women aged 65 and older in the United States have the disease. To put that number in perspective, a woman in her sixties is now about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer within her lifetime.

Researchers are racing to figure out why. Women generally live longer than men, but mounting evidence suggests that longevity alone may not account for the unequal disease burden women face. It remains unclear whether women are truly at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s. But studies have revealed that there may be distinct biological and genetic factors shaping how the disease develops and progresses in women. Understanding these differences will be of key importance in devising new, more effective strategies for treating, preventing and diagnosing Alzheimer’s.

Consider the example of heart disease. The death rate dropped by nearly half as awareness that it was the leading cause of death in women rose dramatically during a 12-year period beginning in 1997. Now, research uncovering biological differences in heart disease is continuing to help doctors fine-tune diagnosis, prevention and treatment for women. For example, cardiologists are modifying how they identify potential risk factors, adjusting blood thinner dosages, and prescribing low-dose aspirin depending on a person’s sex, particularly for older women who have already had a heart attack. Tackling Alzheimer’s now requires a similar vision.

Mind the Gap

In May 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association hosted a think tank that brought together experts in biological sex differences and Alzheimer’s disease to develop a research agenda. This meeting, co-chaired by neuroscientist Roberta Diaz Brinton of the University of Arizona Health Services, neuropsychologist Suzanne Craft of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and neurologist Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, identified three primary gaps in our knowledge. Specifically, they concluded that we need more research to understand the different roles that genetics, hormones and lifestyle factors play in Alzheimer’s in men and women.

In response, the Alzheimer’s Association launched a new funding initiative—the only one of its kind—investing $2.2 million across nine research projects. One, led by Brinton, focuses on the complex interplay between hormones and genes in Alzheimer’s disease. For more than two decades, Brinton has studied how major hormonal transitions, including puberty, pregnancy and menopause, can affect important connections in the brain. She and her colleagues are investigating whether the loss of estrogen in women in mid-life who carry a known risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease, APOEe4, leads to more significant brain cell damage, specifically in the brain’s white matter, compared to those who are not at this increased genetic risk. White matter acts as a relay station for communication between different areas of the brain. Brinton and colleagues suggest that these combined factors can increase a woman’s susceptibility to Alzheimer’s later in life.

Other projects are exploring potentially modifiable lifestyle factors, such as education, occupation, exercise, diet, stress and sleep—all of which may hold greater sway over women’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Take, for example, formal education, which strong evidence suggests may boost resilience to cognitive decline and dementia in both sexes. Data reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in 2015 showed that individuals who completed high school had a 28 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to those with only an elementary school education. Although disparities in formal education between men and women are declining in the U.S. and other developed countries, significant differences still exist in current older populations.

Researchers are also learning that there may be differences in the brain’s response to stress between men and women. In a 38-year longitudinal study examining the link between stress and the risk for Alzheimer’s, women who had lived through more stressful events—such as divorce, widowhood, work problems or illness—had an increased likelihood of developing dementia. Another more recent 28-year-long study indicates that anxiety may play a role in increasing risk for dementia in women but not in men. Although these studies suggest a link, it is important to advance this research in larger and more diverse populations.

Looking Forward

Ultimately, the most effective approaches to preventing, treating and diagnosing Alzheimer’s and dementia may need to be tailored for each individual, taking into account multiple factors such as genetics, hormones and lifestyle. Investigating how sex differences contribute to Alzheimer’s may provide important clues to achieving this goal.

Advocacy can make a difference. Women must raise their voices about the importance of addressing the disproportionate impact Alzheimer’s has on us, and we need to convince others to do so too. One way to get involved is by joining the Alzheimer’s Association’s My Brain movement. Launched in 2010, the initiative calls on a milllion women to use their amazing brains to help wipe out this disease. My Brain also provides knowledge and tools to help women advocate for a substantial increase in Alzheimer’s research funding.

Currently, federal Alzheimer’s research funding falls short of the $2 billion that leading experts say is required to meet the primary goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services—namely, to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. Strong research investments for other diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, have led to effective treatments and prevention strategies. It’s time to do the same for Alzheimer’s.

This post includes excerpts from “Sex biology contributions to vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease: A think tank convened by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative,” a review article published in September 2016 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

More to Explore

“Sex biology contributions to vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease: A think tank convened by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative” published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Common psychosocial stressors in middle-aged women related to longstanding distress and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a 38-year longitudinal population study. Lena Johansson et al. BMJ Open.

Anxiety is associated with increased risk of dementia in older Swedish twins. Andrew J. Petkus et al.

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes On Alzheimer’s. 


By Heather M. Snyder

© 2017 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Federal Update: Alzheimer’s Progress in the 114th Congress

(Alzheimer’s Association) As the 114th session of Congress draws to a close we are excited to share with you some of the incredible progress we’ve achieved in our ongoing efforts to make Alzheimer’s a national priority.

In its final week, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that will accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new treatments and cures for many diseases. It also increases funding at the National Institutes of Health for innovative approaches to addressing complex diseases. And it streamlines the regulatory process to ensure that treatments can be available to patients as soon as possible. The 21st Century Cures Act also includes the Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act which will help to advance research breakthroughs for Alzheimer’s disease, and encourage public-private partnerships. Alzheimer’s Association and our strategic partner the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) have supported both of these key pieces of legislation since their introduction and we’re excited to announce that last week they were signed into law by the President!

These important actions are just the latest in a series of recent public policy victories for our cause. Indeed, as we look back on the session, one thing is clear — this Congress brought remarkable advancements for our cause because of your relentless efforts.

Since the 114th Congress convened in January 2015, we have progressed on our goal to increase Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — first, with the historic funding annual increase of $350 million for fiscal year 2016, the largest in history, signed into law in December 2015. And again, this summer when the House Appropriations Committee approved an additional $350 million increase for FY17 and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $400 million. We are encouraged by the growing support for our cause and the return of our champions in Congress. Together with the work of you, our advocates, we will continue the pursuit of this additional FY17 funding when the new Administration and Congress begin their work in January.

The 114th Congress also saw the advancement of critical legislation to increase access to care planning and support services. The Alzheimer’s Association, AIM, and advocates like you led the way on the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act to provide Medicare coverage for comprehensive care planning services for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. Because of our efforts, congressional cosponsorship numbers soared, and in November 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a decision to pay for cognitive and functional assessments and care planning. In 2017, for the first time, people living with Alzheimer’s will have access to care planning with a medical professional covered by Medicare. also saw support grow for the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA). PCHETA would ensure an adequate, well-trained palliative care workforce through workforce training, education and awareness and enhanced research. Thanks to the leadership and advocacy of the Association, during the 114th Congress PCHETA reached 234 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, and 20 cosponsors in the Senate. We will continue to work to ensure advance this legislation in the new year.

Additionally, there was increased support in Congress for Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which reauthorizes the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program to help reduce injury and death of Americans with Alzheimer’s and developmental disabilities. This program is a proven success, helping law enforcement quickly identify and reunite persons with Alzheimer’s with their families and caregivers. Our advocates have again been relentless in efforts to build support for this legislation, growing the number of co-sponsors in the House from 23 in late August to 93 today. While, the 114th Congress departed before taking final action on the legislation, the support we have helped garner for the bill has us hopeful for its passage in the new Congress.

For all these tremendous developments there is much more work to be done. As we look ahead to the incoming Administration and the 115th Congress, we are already hard at work with the new and returning leadership to advance public policy solutions that will improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. To learn about these efforts and how you can get involved visit We also invite you to join us for the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C.

None of this would be possible without you. Thank you for all of your contributions to making these advances possible and to bringing us another step closer to realizing our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.


© 2016 Alzheimer’s Association. All rights reserved.