January 2011

Filling the Gap

CNN aired a one-hour special on January 29 highlighting a Colombian community that some believe could hold one of the keys to finding treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The documentary follows scientists who have tracked the history of Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years in an extended family in Antioquia that has passed a particular Alzheimer gene from generation to generation. In each generation, affected family members get Alzheimer’s by the time they are 45.

Individuals who carry a form of this gene, PS1 will definitely get Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, it is possible to test these Columbian family members for the gene, and predict who will get the disease. The ability to predict who and when an individual will get the disease raises the possibility of developing clinical trials to find out whether or not certain interventions are effective in delaying the disease in those family members who carry the rare form of PS1.

This extended family comprises one of the largest clusters of familial Alzheimer’s disease in the world. Negotiations are ongoing regarding arranging a clinical trial inColombia. If successful, researchers would have the chance to evaluate some of the most promising Alzheimer’s treatments in prevention trials sooner than otherwise possible and potentially provide the evidence needed to evaluate a range of treatments using neuroimaging and other biomarkers by showing that a treatment’s effect on these biological measurements of Alzheimer’s are reasonably likely to predict a benefit to patients. Above all, these family members at highest possible risk will be given hope and gain access to the most promising treatments.

Coverage and excerpts from this episode can be found here.

ACT-AD Chair Weighs in on AD Biomarkers at Advisory Committee Meeting

On January 20, an FDA advisory committee voted to recommend approval of a new imaging compound that can detect Alzheimer’s beta-amyloid plaques. The recommendation was conditional, requiring additional data analysis and training to support that the chemical in combination with a brain scan will be useful and reliable in the real world.

The panel voted 16-0 in favor of Eli Lilly’s/Avid’s Amyvid, which is currently only used in investigational studies. The injectible compound works by traveling through the bloodstream and binding with beta-amyloid in the brain. It is used in conjunction with positron emission tomographic (PET) imaging which picks up the highlighted plaques and helps physicians see where they exist in the brain. Before moving ahead, FDA requires that Eli Lilly/Avid demonstrate that the images can be consistently interpreted by physicians who have received training in reading the scans.

Dan Perry, President and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research and ACT-AD’s chair made brief remarks at the advisory committee meeting on the growing consensus supporting the utility of biomarkers and ongoing efforts to advance their use in Alzheimer’s drug development.