While headlines are still focused on curing Alzheimer’s, finding disease-modifying treatments and reducing amyloid in the brain, it seemed to me that the experts and the audience at this event had moved far beyond these topics.
Both speakers acknowledged that potential treatments currently in trial may not be effective. And both acknowledged that after years of research, scientists are now less sure about what Alzheimer’s is and how to define it. The age of onset, progression and symptoms vary from person to person. And the link between pathologies (plaques, tangles, amount of amyloid, etc.) and symptoms are not clear enough to provide a basis on which to develop treatments or prevention methods, they said.
If we are to succeed in treating and preventing Alzheimer’s, we must find a new conceptual model of the disease, said Dr. Khachaturian. Before prevention (or even treatment) can be successfully addressed, scientists must agree on a definition of Alzheimer’s, and any markers such as amyloid in the brain must clearly be validated as surrogates of whatever disease is defined. He estimates the cost of this effort at $10 billion over the next ten years.
The presentations at this event highlight the fact that some researchers believe we are headed down the wrong path in our search for Alzheimer’s treatments, and are looking for the funding to start over. You can be sure we’ll hear a lot more about this in the months to come.