News

Find updates on the work of our researchers here, as well as news about recent advances in Alzheimer's science, funding and awareness.

Following the A-beta Trail

Most researchers agree that the amyloid beta peptide, A-beta, is a key player in Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Exactly how it is involved is still unclear; but attention is now shifting from A-beta as the main component of the tell-tale amyloid plaques to the basic component in A-beta “oligomers” or clumps of the A-beta peptide which have been shown to be toxic to cells in the brain that receive and process messages involving memory.

The editorial by Sam in the March 1 online issue of The Lancet Neurology, accompanies a research article written by lead author Juha O Rinne and colleagues that uses neuro-imaging to see the results of the application of a drug now in trials called bapineuzumab (short for beta-amyloid peptide neutralizing monoclonal anti-body) by Elan/Wyeth. The straightforward discovery is that neuro-imaging can detect in vivo that a study drug is able to lower the presence of A-beta, and therefore possibly be effective against Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

The authors demonstrate that, in fact, neuro-imaging does show that the drug bapineuzumab “reduces the cortical fibrillar amyloid-beta load in Alzheimer’s disease” by about 25% over a 78 week period.

However, Sam highlights the fact that this study, as well as others, report “little or no obvious clinical response to bapineuzimab.” In other words, the drug may have caused the amount of the A-beta peptide to go down, but that did not result in any clinical difference or improvement in the patients tested over 78 days.

According to the “amyloid hypothesis” as it is understood by many, an observed reduction in the A-beta load should result in a decrease in Alzheimer’s pathology, presumably evidenced by improvement in cognition, stabilization of the rate of cognitive decline, or relief of other symptoms in treated patients. What’s going on here?

At its most extreme, one conclusion could be that the “amyloid hypothesis” is bunk. We’ve had several drugs in trials that target reduction in A-beta, but none seem to improve cognition or other symptoms to any appreciable degree. So A-beta must be the wrong target.

But wait, says Sam, there are other things going on here. First, Sam notes that neither of the so-called “failed” anti-amyloid trials actually measured amyloid buildup, which, he goes on to say, “would be like testing a statin…without measuring (its effect on) cholesterol”. He also reminds us that genetic analysis keeps leading us back to A-beta, concluding that there “are compelling, unchangeable facts suggesting involvement of amyloid beta in genetic forms of Alzheimer’s disease.” Furthermore, Sam says, “logic dictates that amyloid beta cannot be causative and toxic in genetic forms of the disease and yet totally harmless and irrelevant in common sporadic forms.” Long term prevention studies will be required to settle this conundrum, argues Dr. Gandy.

Furthermore, if we go back to the emerging theory of the importance of A-beta “oligomers” in Alzheimer’s pathology, we have another puzzle. The imaging technology so far cannot “see” oligomeric A-beta. Therefore, it could be that both the drug and the imaging are aiming at the wrong kind of A-beta targets!

Sam therefore suggests that even though tests of the kind described in this paper may raise questions about the “amyloid hypothesis,” and may not be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of some drugs currently being tested, there are other drugs in the pipeline that do have, at least initially, a positive effect on Alzheimer’s symptoms and may be addressing a different “mechanism of action” that most drugs up until now have targeted. These new drugs include the Russian drug developed as an anti-histamine, Dimebon (recently re-named “latrepirdine”), now in Phase 3 trials, which appears to accelerate clearance of A-beta before oligomers are able to form. Sam points out recent work from his own lab (supported by CAF) suggesting such a model as well as recent work by Sergey Bachurin (the “father of Dimebon”) in a Russian journal showing that Dimebon clears out deposits of the protein that causes Parkinson’s disease. Could it be, Sam asks, that Dimebon stimulates cells to break down oligomers?

Clearly much more work needs to be done; but to place all our chips on one theory of how A-beta affects Alzheimer’s pathology, or to throw the theory out completely because it does not lead to effective results based on our previous read of how A-beta affects Alzheimer’s pathology would be, as Sam says, “irrational and irresponsible.”

More and more, it is becoming clear that following the A-beta trail, rooted in strong genetic evidence, provides the right roadmap to a cure.

To read Sam's editorial, click here.

Memories Are Everything

Alan Arnette is headed back to the mountains, this time planning to climb the highest peak on each continent while raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research.

We first introduced you to Alan Arnette back in 2007 when he embarked upon an adventure he called “The Road Back to Mount Everest: Memories are Everything.” He spent the yearlong journey climbing 5 of the world’s highest mountains to raise money for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund -- and we couldn’t be more thankful!

But Alan isn’t done yet and this time his sights are set on an even bigger goal -- climbing the world’s biggest mountains to raise $1 million for Alzheimer’s research!

Save health care -- Invest in research

From Cure Alzheimer's Fund President & CEO, Tim Armour:

Last week, I told you all that our federal government will spend $2 trillion on Alzheimer’s care in this decade alone. What I didn’t tell you was that while we will spend $184 billion on care in 2010, we will only invest $430 million on research -- not even 1% of what we’re spending on care!

This is a recipe for disaster – not only for the well-being of future generations, but for our entire health care system. How much longer can we delay progress toward a cure before we bankrupt the entire health care system?

We must rebalance this equation. Please join me in telling Congress to make a national commitment to a cure – and ask your loved ones to do the same.

http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5850/t/5223/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=755

We are a nation that takes care of its own and we must continue to care for those in need now – funding for Alzheimer’s care is critical. But we can’t continue to ignore the facts.

We are pouring billions of dollars into just treating the symptoms of the disease when we know we can cure it. It doesn’t make any sense. We have the roadmap to a cure – that's what makes us unique – now we just need the funds to make it happen.

The American people deserve health care that is effective and sustainable. Join us and together we’ll find a cure to this debilitating and economically crippling disease.

And as always, thanks for everything you do to help us find a cure!

 

Climbing for a Cure

We first introduced you to Alan Arnette back in 2007 when he embarked upon an adventure he called “The Road Back to Mount Everest: Memories are Everything.” He spent the yearlong journey climbing 5 of the world’s highest mountains to raise money for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund -- and we couldn’t be more thankful!

But Alan isn’t done yet and this time his sights are set on an even bigger goal -- climbing the world’s biggest mountains to raise $1 million for Alzheimer’s research!

“The Seven Summits” is no small feat, but Alan is ready for the challenge. An experienced climber, Alan says this mission isn’t just about climbing, it’s about trying to find a cure for the disease that took the lives of his mother and 2 aunts -- and 100% of every dollar Alan raises will go directly to the research that will eventually cure this devastating disease!

So what exactly lies ahead for Alan? He will climb Mount Kilimanjaro (19,563 feet) this summer and then on to:

  • Denali, 20,320 feet, in Alaska
  • Elbrus, 18,481 feet, in Russia
  • Everest, 29,035 feet, in Nepal
  • Aconcagua, 22,841 feet, in Argentina
  • Vinson, 16,850 feet, in Antarctica
  • Mount Kosciuszko, 7,310 feet, and Carstensz Pyramid, 16,023 feet, on Irian Jaya, in Australia/Oceania

If you want to learn more about Alan and his quest to raise $1 million for Alzheimer’s research, visit him at www.alanarnette.com or check out the Loveland Reporter Herald’s recent piece on Alan!


Alzheimer’s costs to hit $2 trillion this decade

From Cure Alzheimer's Fund President & CEO, Tim Armour:

I’ve been talking about the “cost of Alzheimer’s” for years, but we just released our new numbers and the statistics are shocking.

Over the next 10 years, we will spend $2 trillion on Alzheimer’s care.

Alzheimer’s costs the federal government over $100 billion per year, but as the baby boomer generation ages, the costs of health care are going to increase at an even faster pace. We can’t sustain this, Alzheimer’s alone will single-handedly bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid if we don’t act.

That’s why we must find a cure for Alzheimer’s now. We need the federal government to make a serious investment in research so our loved ones -- and our nation’s health care system -- will not suffer the consequences.

That is why I’m asking each and every one of you to sign our petition telling Congress to cure Alzheimer’s now.

http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5850/t/5223/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=755

These numbers are truly alarming, reminding us that we must cure Alzheimer's now not only to address the obvious looming economic disaster, but also to bring real hope and relief to those already suffering from the disease. That’s why we founded the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. We have a roadmap to a cure -- we are the only ones -- we just need to fund it.

With a federal investment of $5 billion a year for the next decade, our country can capitalize on current research, including Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s successful efforts to identify and characterize all the genes related to Alzheimer’s, bringing us that much closer to curing this devastating disease -- that’s a lot less than the $2 trillion price of inaction.

Another American gets Alzheimer’s every 70 seconds, yet our government spends very little on research. We need a long-term investment or our health care system -- and the American people -- will continue to suffer.

Lend your voice to our cause and help us cure Alzheimer’s once and for all.

As Number of Alzheimer’s Cases Increases, Federal Funding Continues to Decrease

A Letter from Cure Alzheimer's Fund President & CEO, Tim Armour:

For 5 years now, we’ve been saying the same thing – with increased federal funding, we will find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

We have urged the federal government to make a national commitment to increase research funding and in the Senate’s recent appropriations bill, we are finally seeing the beginnings of such a commitment.

In light of the growing burden that Alzheimer's disease is placing on society, the Committee believes greater resources are clearly warranted. In particular, the Committee strongly urges the NIA (National Institute of Aging) to devote more funding to clinical studies, including studies of individuals who are genetically predisposed to develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and renewal of the Alzheimer Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, including biomarker development studies.

This is encouraging language from the Senate, but we need Washington to do more to stop this immense crisis. According to a startling new report released by the University of Rochester, federal funding for Alzheimer’s research is actively on a steady decline. This must be reversed.

That’s why I’m asking all of you to speak up and remind our members of Congress that we need to cure Alzheimer’s now.

Please click on the link below to send a message to your elected officials and tell them you support increased federal funding for Alzheimer’s research:

http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5850/t/5153/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=3111

Did you know that in 2010, 17% of the combined Medicare and Medicaid expenses – a staggering $186 billion – will go to Alzheimer's care? And if we don’t invest in finding a cure today, the financial burden on our Medicare and Medicaid systems will only continue to increase.

What we do right now is critical. Let’s join together and cure this disease – not only because no one should face the prospect of losing a lifetime of memories, but, because the health of our entire health care system depends on it.

Thank you for everything you do,

Tim Armour

President & CEO, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund

Running 4 Answers

By Carolyn Mastrangelo

The saddest part is that my story isn’t unique. Many who read this will have similar ones to tell. Noticing that my mom wasn’t quite right was a scary revelation. Realizing that it was happening at the age of 55 was terrifying. She is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend -- roles that she taught me how to do well. She was an avid reader and trivia buff. She was a registered nurse at a nursing home for 22 years, a job she enjoyed tremendously. She has lived in one now for 5 years. She is almost 66 years old.

Having lost my mother-in-law to breast cancer, I knew there were many ways to donate -- many ways to DO SOMETHING. As a runner, I found races that support breast cancer research. I looked for races to support my mom, but, for a disease that affects 35 million and continues to afflict another American every 70 seconds, I was shocked to find not one race benefitting Alzheimer’s.

The disease is devastating to watch; however there was nothing to do but watch.

As a personal trainer, I believe in change -- that things can be different than they are now. I decided to change the lack of races. I reached out to my friend and fellow fitness enthusiast, Barbara Geiger, and asked if she would be interested in helping me put something together. A race was born.

The name of the race started with Melissa Etheridge’s song in reference to breast cancer, “I Run For Life.” A song I love, we looked at the lyrics to spark some ideas and found the line, “running for answers.” The second we read that line, we knew we had found a name for our race.

We lack answers. They are lacking in the research and they are lacking in our daily lives. How often did I hope that the answer to the question, “Mom, do you know who I am?” would produce the right answer -- or even an answer.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is exactly the type of organization I was looking for. Their singular focus on research is what we need.

This experience is exciting. Daunting. Beyond rewarding. I’m not just watching my mom in a nursing home. We are doing something. It alone will not solve the problem, but it is a step in the right direction.

This race offers the opportunity for YOU to do something, too. Run. Walk. Donate. Sponsor.

Join us.

Carolyn is one of the race organizers of "Running 4 Answers," a 4-mile race and 1.5-mile walk to benefit Cure Alzheimer's Fund. For more information on "Running 4 Answers," visit http://www.running4answers.org

Martha Stewart on the “Silver Tsunami”

Martha Stewart believes our nation is ill-equipped for the “silver tsunami” that is quickly approaching -- and we agree with her.

Stewart recently posted her views on the popular blog, The Huffington Post, calling the nation’s rise in the number of elderly citizens, America’s “other health crisis.”

Life expectancy rates in this country are at an all-time high and with advanced age comes the increased threat of Alzheimer’s. This disease will affect 115 million of our loved ones, family members and friends by 2050, but, if we fail to find a cure, the cost of treatment and care for Alzheimer's patients will be $2 trillion, potentially bankrupting the entire health care system.

We have a tremendous opportunity to end Alzheimer’s disease by 2020, so that our sons and daughters never face the tragic prospect of losing a lifetime of memories.

Stand with us and urge Congress to support increased funding for Alzheimer’s: TELL CONGRESS: DON'T FORGET ALZHEIMER'S

We can all agree that Martha Stewart’s blog post touches on an increasingly important aspect of health care reform that we, as a nation, have not appropriately addressed. Just as Martha concludes her piece:

We're all in this together. Whether or not you care about older people, you will, if you're lucky, be one of them. It's not just a demographic. It's personal -- it's you, your parents, your aunts, uncles, friends and children. We need to do a better job caring for this population -- and supporting those who care for them.

Click here to read the article in its entirety:

A Better Way to Look for Diseases’ Genetic Roots

If you haven’t checked out Nicholas Wade’s piece in today’s New York Times, you should. The prominent science writer has taken on the traditional method of gene hunting, claiming there may be a new, arguably more successful, way to look for diseases’ genetic roots -- the very research strategy conducted by the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund since our inception in 2004.

Having developed increasingly sophisticated approaches to Genome Wide Association Screens (GWAS) Cure Alzheimer’s Fund supported researchers have been arguing that the common method of gene hunting is flawed or at least insufficient -- that it is the common variants that may actually be pointing to the rare mutations responsible for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It’s this research focus that has allowed us to develop our roadmap to a cure, something that has made us truly unique among other research organizations. A key paper on this topic titled, "Genome-wide association studies in Alzheimer’s disease" was published recently in the journal Human Molecular Genetics by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund supported researchers Lars Bertram and Rudy Tanzi.

Wade’s piece references Dr. David B. Goldstein, a Duke geneticist who believes that genome-wide association studies may have taken significant time and resources, but were vital to providing the science community with “next steps.”

Goldstein, like our very own Rudy Tanzi, believes that finding even a few rare variants could point to genes that make potential targets for drug makers, accelerating the developments of effective therapies.

It appears where the traditional method of gene hunting has failed to identify the right genes, the rare variants just might.

Click on the link below to read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/science/26gene.html

CBS Poll: Nearly 50% of Americans Concerned about Alzheimer’s

According to a recent CBS poll, nearly half of Americans are concerned they will one day suffer from Alzheimer’s disease -- a fear that will only continue to grow until we find a cure for this devastating disease.

As the baby boomers reach the age of retirement, we are seeing a rapid increase in Alzheimer’s. Over 5 million Americans currently suffer from this disease and that number is expected to rise to as many as 16 million by 2050.

But there is hope. The CBS poll claims that 54% of Americans expect a cure to be found in their lifetime and we know they’re right -- we can find a cure in the next 10 years.

By following our roadmap to a cure, we have continually funded research with the highest probability of slowing, stopping or reversing Alzheimer’s and 2010 will be no exception. In the coming months, our research consortium will explore some of the most critical questions that remain in Alzheimer’s pathology, embarking upon an aggressive research agenda that truly makes us unique.

Stay tuned this year as we continue to update you on all the exciting developments happening at Cure Alzheimer’s Fund!

Check out the CBS poll to learn more:

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2010/01/12/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry6088901.shtml