2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) Highlights
Promising new data results for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Results from more than a dozen experimental drug studies at AAIC show the research community attacking Alzheimer’s disease from multiple angles, targeting the underlying causes and some of the most pernicious symptoms. These advances show a clear maturation of the Alzheimer’s research field, a recognition of the need for a broader attack, and hint at future possibilities for combination therapy. New reports included advanced trials and new analyses in three drugs targeting the abnormal amyloid protein that forms plaques in the brain (one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s), plus three drug trials that target other pathways and symptoms in the disease, including psychiatric symptoms such as agitation.
Taking a longer term vision, another set of studies at AAIC 2015 reviewed early-stage results on three types of investigational drugs that suggest they have the potential to work across brain diseases that cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lewy Body dementia, based on small preliminary studies in animal models and test tubes.
28 Million Baby Boomers will get Alzheimer’s disease
At AAIC 2015, projections reported by The Lewin Group for the Alzheimer’s Association show that 28 million American baby boomers will get Alzheimer’s by midcentury — a deluge that will consume nearly 25 percent of Medicare spending in 2040 — unless there are significant advances in treatment and prevention. A study by the same group released earlier this year suggested that a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years could save $220 billion within the first few years of its introduction.
Type 1 diabetes identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease
The first study of dementia risk, including Alzheimer’s disease, in older adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D) was reported at AAIC 2015. The study looking at a healthcare database of more than 490,000 people over 60 years old found that participants with T1D were 60 to 93 percent more likely to get dementia compared with people without diabetes, even when the diabetes is treated. More research is needed to validate this finding and investigate the biological reasons for the increased risk in T1D. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are rapidly increasing worldwide, and people with type 1 are living longer than ever before.
Early education impacts future risk for Alzheimer’s disease
Two studies from Sweden presented at AAIC 2015 suggest a correlation between childhood school performance (ages 9-10) and the development of late life dementia. Both studies analyzed the impact that early schooling, secondary education and occupational complexity have on the risk of developing dementia. In the first study of more than 7,500 individuals aged 65+, dementia risk was elevated 21 percent in people who were in the lowest 20 percent of childhood school grades, and dementia risk was reduced 23 percent among individuals in occupations characterized by high complexity with data and numbers. Importantly, high occupational complexity could not compensate for the effect of low childhood school marks. Results from the second study also found significant correlations between grades/work complexity and dementia risk. In this population of 440 men and women age 75 and older, dementia risk was elevated more than 50 percent in individuals over 75 with the lowest 20 percent of early-life school grades, even if they had more formal education or a job was associated with significant complexity.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Women are at greater risk for cognitive decline and dementia
Women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alzheimer’s Association 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Women are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s. The most recent data show that 63 percent of all unpaid Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women.
At AAIC 2015, two studies revealed how the pace and impact of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline may be different between the sexes. One study of about 400 people with mild cognitive impairment (141 women, 257 men), mostly in their mid-seventies, showed that women deteriorate twice as fast as men with the condition in both cognitive and functional abilities. Additionally, women declined much more dramatically than men in cognition, function and brain size following surgery with general anesthesia, according to a separate study presented at the conference that reviewed 527 older adults from two different research program databases examining cognitive aging. There is a clear need to investigate why this is the case. Is it simply that women live longer than men, or is there something different in the anatomy, biology and/or genetics that contributes to higher prevalence and faster decline?