Alzheimer’s Matters, the official blog of the ADDF, features insights, perspectives and commentary on current topics of interest in Alzheimer’s disease and related drug discovery.
His memory loss became apparent first. Like many people experiencing Alzheimer’s in its early stages, my father began misplacing important objects and forgetting the names of people. As the disease progressed, his conversational skills became increasingly impaired, but through all of his changes, our emotional bond remained strong.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal highlighted the growing role of “virtual biotechs” in scientific breakthroughs and drug discovery. By eliminating the overhead typically associated with brick-and-mortar firms, virtual biotechs can drive drug discovery forward with lean budgets and novel science. The vast majority of the 62 biotechnology companies receiving funding from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) operate virtually. We have long-believed that investing in these businesses is an efficient way to fund high-risk and high-reward Alzheimer’s science.
The New York Times' recent Op-Ed (“A Cancer Treatment in Your Medicine Cabinet?,” May 19) highlights that—while it is possible that aspirin could benefit breast cancer patients—there have been no randomized trials testing this hypothesis because “no one stands to make money off aspirin.” These challenges also apply to many other prevalent diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Drugs already on the market today may benefit Alzheimer’s patients, a process called “repurposing,” but the barriers to investment in the necessary clinical research trials are considerable.
We spoke to Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, about his research into repurposed drugs, his passion for Alzheimer's--and what it felt like to watch a crowd raise more than $1.1 million to support his research. Here, we share highlights from the interview, which emphasizes the incredible promise repurposed drugs offer to people with Alzheimer's and other dementias.
We all have questions about Alzheimer's disease and dementia. What research should we trust? How are women, in particular, affected? Dr. Howard Fillit, executive director and chief science director of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), answers audience questions about the link between estrogen and Alzheimer's, normal memory loss versus troubling memory loss, and much more in a fascinating 15-minute Q&A during the ADDF's 4th Annual Great Ladies Luncheon and Fashion Show.
Years ago, I consulted on a managed care case that encapsulated the value of screening for dementia in at-risk populations. A Texas nurse described an 80-year-old patient with a number of comorbidities—heart disease, diabetes and obesity—who was readmitted to her hospital on a near-monthly basis. The patient would pay the hospital a visit, get a tune up and leave in stable shape with prescriptions and detailed care instructions in tow. But without fail, he’d be back in the hospital a month later with the same complaints. I asked the nurse about his cognitive status and she told me, “I have no idea.”
We’ve known for years that aging is the single greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s never clearer than when reviewing the hard numbers: 96 percent of the 5.5 million Americans living with the disease are over the age of 65 and one in three Americans over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s. The challenge is translating this basic knowledge into a cure for the disease. That’s where the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), our portfolio of carefully selected drug discovery research targets, and cadre of events for researchers and those affected by Alzheimer’s comes into play.
By Howard Fillit, MD, Executive Director & Chief Science Officer
As a medical student in the 1970s, I studied hundreds of diseases impacting the heart, the brain and the body. But there’s one disease whose name never crossed my lips or the lips of my professors: Alzheimer’s. Today, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a world where Alzheimer’s—a form of dementia that plagues one in six women over 65 and one in three individuals over the age of 85—is not a part of the public consciousness. That shift in awareness, alone, is worth applauding. In just over 35 years, we have given a voice to those suffering from this devastating disease and begun the process of finding a cure. We have also seen government funding for Alzheimer’s research jump from $675,000 in 1976 to $504 million in 2013.
A new study from Tufts Medical Center adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that it is possible to take steps to lower one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset. By tackling four key risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease—heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and BMI—researchers determined that patients could decrease their likelihood of developing the disease, postpone its start and minimize its duration.
We’ve known for years that the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias have been underreported, but a recent study identified the disease as the potential third-leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer. The study, published last week in the journal Neurology, found that the number of people who die from Alzheimer’s may be five times higher than previously thought, partly because death certificates often fail to list Alzheimer’s as a contributing cause of death. But this is only part of the story. The problems begin many years before death, when the disease is in its earliest stages.