Research Advances from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2011

By Alzheimers Association, PRNE
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

PARIS, July 20, 2011 -

- New Reports Highlight Advances in
Early Detection and Global Collaborations -

- French President Sarkozy Addresses Researchers on National
Alzheimer’s Plan -

This week, more than 5,000 scientists from around the world
gathered in Paris to report the latest advances in Alzheimer’s
research at the Alzheimer’s Association® International Conference
2011 (AAIC 2011).  Scientists presented and discussed early
detection, medical intervention and global standardization for the
health epidemic of the 21st century - Alzheimer’s disease and other

“Alzheimer’s is growing at an alarming rate in the United States
and around the world,” said William Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s
Association Chief Medical and Scientific Officer. “The good news
out of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference this
year is that we are making advances toward earlier detection of
Alzheimer’s, often as a result of innovative global scientific

“These advances are critical to helping people live longer,
healthy lives free of the disability and death caused by
Alzheimer’s. Identifying the disease early in its process - even
before symptoms start to become evident - and treating it early is
how we will accomplish that. Therefore, what’s really important is
for everyone to join the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. In the
U.S., the Alzheimer’s Association is leading the public effort to
inform and implement the recently passed National Alzheimer’s
Project Act. A series of public input sessions are upcoming in
August around the county. To learn more and get involved, go to href="">,” Thies said.

French President Sarkozy Addresses
Alzheimer’s Scientists From Around the World

French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed AAIC 2011 attendees
about development and implementation of the French National
Alzheimer’s Plan.  Launched in 2008, the French plan has three
pillars: (1) improving the quality of life for people with dementia
and their families; (2) mobilizing French society in the fight
against Alzheimer’s; and (3) advancing Alzheimer’s research.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the French National
Alzheimer’s Plan can be a model for the creation of similar plans
in other nations around the world. It is an example of national
leadership deciding that Alzheimer’s is a critical issue that must
be addressed because of the health and financial impact it will
have on the nation as the populations ages - leadership that says
we must plan for the future, invest in critical research and
provide resources to all affected people.

Research Highlights from AAIC 2011

  • Research from two studies presented at AAIC 2011 focused on
    clarifying the relationship between brain injury and mild cognitive
    impairment (MCI). Older veterans who experienced traumatic brain
    injury (TBI) showed a more than two-fold increase in the risk of
    developing dementia. Over a seven-year period, the risk of getting
    a dementia diagnosis was a little more than 15% in those who had a
    traumatic brain injury compared with just under 7% in those without

In another more preliminary study, researchers compared
cognitive test results for a group of former American NFL football
players to those of two other groups: (1) 41 similar adults with no
cognitive changes and (2) a sample of 81 people diagnosed with mild
cognitive impairment (MCI). The researchers found that former
football players were at elevated risk for MCI compared with
non-athletes. The athletes with MCI had test results similar to the
other group with MCI, except the athletes were slightly less
impaired and were significantly younger.

The relationship between brain injury and risk of dementia
remains unclear, with some studies suggesting an increased risk and
others finding no association. It is an important topic that
deserves more research attention. To learn more about current
knowledge of brain health and Alzheimer’s risk, visit href="">

  • Scientists at AAIC 2011 reported on a study suggesting that
    falls are more common among individuals with the earliest brain
    changes of Alzheimer’s. They measured the rate of falls among
    seemingly cognitively healthy older adults with and without
    preclinical Alzheimer’s, as determined by a brain PET scan looking
    for deposits of a toxic protein called amyloid. Those people with
    amyloid deposits had twice the risk of falls. These study results
    suggest that, in some people, changes in gait and balance may
    appear as early indicators of Alzheimer’s, even before memory
  • Previous research has identified a number of potentially
    modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s. However, it remains
    unclear whether changing these mostly lifestyle-based risk factors
    would result in fewer cases of Alzheimer’s. At AAIC 2011,
    researchers presented a new mathematical model of global
    Alzheimer’s risk suggesting that reducing the prevalence of
    well-known, lifestyle-based, chronic disease risk factors by 25
    percent could potentially prevent 3 million cases of Alzheimer’s
    worldwide, including nearly one half million in the U.S.

Scientists used mathematical modeling to calculate the
percentage of Alzheimer’s cases that may be attributable to
diabetes, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, smoking,
depression, low educational attainment and physical inactivity. The
researchers caution that these estimates make an assumption that
has not yet been proven - that there is a causal relationship
between the risk factors examined and Alzheimer’s disease, and that
modifying the risk factors may lower Alzheimer’s risk.

  • Researchers at the AAIC 2011 in Paris reported initial findings
    of characteristics of a group of older adults who have maintained
    normal cognitive functioning over time. The scientists reported
    that, in their study group, the most significant factors related to
    maintaining healthy cognition included low scores on measures of
    stress, anxiety, depression and trauma - despite participants’
    experiencing life-threatening illnesses, violence, or living with
    addicted parents and spouses. The investigators hypothesize that
    resilience in the face of distressing life events is likely related
    to positive coping styles and the personality trait of
  • Bapineuzumab (Pfizer, Janssen Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy) is a
    passive immunotherapy being tested for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s
    disease. Initial reports of Phase II study results of bapineuzumab
    raised concerns due to side effects of vasogenic edema (VE). Two
    studies presented at AAIC 2011 described (1) a re-evaluation of the
    Phase II safety results, and (2) the first report of long-term
    safety data for bapineuzumab treatment beyond 78 weeks.

Long-term safety results were reported at AAIC 2011 from an
ongoing, open-label, Phase II extension study. Eighty-six (86)
people received bapineuzumab treatment for at least three years and
43 for at least four years at the time of this interim analysis.
Overall, bapineuzumab was generally well-tolerated and side-effects
tended to be mild. The most encouraging finding from these studies
is that VE (now referred to as ARIA-E) seems to occur less
frequently as time goes on. The risk of developing ARIA-E
diminished with an increasing number of infusions of the drug; from
6.7 percent for infusions 1-3 to 2.7 percent for infusions

Two neuroradiologists independently reviewed more than 2,000 MRI
images from 262 participants in Phase II bapineuzumab studies. The
scientists found that risk factors for ARIA-E included both APOE-e4
(a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s) and a higher dose of
bapineuzumab, consistent with previous observations. According to
the researchers, the risk factors identified in this study suggest
that these imaging abnormalities may be related to accumulation and
clearance of amyloid from blood vessels in the brain.

  • One important goal in Alzheimer’s research is to prevent damage
    and loss of brain cells by intervening early in the disease process
    - even before outward symptoms are evident, because by then it may
    be too late to effectively treat the disease. In 2008, the U.S.
    National Institute on Aging funded the establishment of the
    Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) study, conducted by
    an international network of 11 leading research centers and
    directed at Washington University in St. Louis. The DIAN study is
    investigating young-onset familial Alzheimer’s caused by rare
    genetic mutations. DIAN now has the largest and most extensive
    worldwide research network investigating dominantly inherited
    Alzheimer’s. By studying Alzheimer’s in rare individuals destined
    to get the disease because of their genes, we can learn more about
    the vast majority of people with Alzheimer’s.

At AAIC 2011, the DIAN researchers presented the clinical,
cognitive, MRI, PET, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and blood
biomarkers from the first group of DIAN participants. The DIAN
registry will eventually total 400 individuals; at AAIC, the
scientists reported data from the initial 150 enrollees. The
results suggest that brain chemistry and imaging changes can be
detected at least 10 years, and perhaps up to 20 years, before the
expected age of onset of Alzheimer’s. According to the researchers,
the results demonstrate the feasibility and promise of performing
Alzheimer’s prevention studies in this special population.

  • As the Alzheimer’s field moves closer to new and earlier tests
    for the disease, innovative global research initiatives are taking
    the first important steps to confirm and standardize Alzheimer’s
    biomarkers. A biomarker is something that can be objectively
    measured as an indicator of disease processes or the body’s
    response to therapy. For example, blood pressure is a biomarker for
    heart disease. Two studies presented at AAIC 2011 show the
    importance of global standardization of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s
    and sharing international data.

Data from three multi-center studies of Alzheimer’s compared,
for the first time, results of brain amyloid imaging and the impact
of genetics and ethnicity on those results across countries on
three different continents. The three studies are: the Alzheimer’s
Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (US-ADNI), Australian Imaging
Biomarker and Lifestyle Flagship Study of Aging (AIBL), and
Japanese Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (J-ADNI). They
found that the effect of age and APOE-e4 on amyloid deposition in
the Japanese population is similar to Caucasians, despite a lower
e4 allele frequency in the Japanese. Most importantly for the
Alzheimer’s research field, the results suggest that the three
multi-national ADNI data sets are feasible for combined analysis.
Combined analysis increases the power of the results, decreases
ethnicity effects and makes the findings more broadly applicable.
This is one of the first demonstrations of the value of open data
sharing in the worldwide ADNI initiative, spearheaded by the
Alzheimer’s Association.

  • The earliest Alzheimer’s related brain changes are usually seen
    in the hippocampus, the “control center” of memory-related activity
    in the brain - which often is one of the first brain areas affected
    by Alzheimer’s. A variety of published protocols now exist for
    assessing hippocampal volume. As a first phase of the
    standardization process, researchers surveyed the various available
    protocols to identify underlying reasons why they result in
    different volume estimates. This work was funded by the Alzheimer’s
    Association. The next step will be to create, test and verify a
    single protocol for MRI-based evaluation of Alzheimer’s
    disease-related hippocampal shrinkage.
  • A person with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has problems with
    memory, language, or another mental function that are severe enough
    to be noticeable to themselves or to other people and to show up on
    tests, but not serious enough to interfere with daily life. Not
    everyone diagnosed with MCI goes on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
    However, research has shown that individuals with MCI have an
    increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s over the next few years,
    especially when their main problem is memory. Identification of
    factors that predict progression from MCI to Alzheimer’s dementia
    has emerged as an important Alzheimer’s research priority.  A
    global perspective on MCI including data from six countries
    (Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom,  and the
    United States
    ), presented for the first time at AAIC 2011, found
    that a number of common factors emerge as indicators of the
    progression from MCI to Alzheimer’s, including: depression, apathy,
    anxiety, age, loss of ability in activities of daily living,
    cardiovascular factors (including stroke and diabetes), and low
    levels of education. The studies also call for doctors to pay more
    attention to subjective memory complaints in otherwise healthy
    individuals as possible indicators of Alzheimer’s.
  • It is believed that build-up of a toxic molecule known as beta
    amyloid in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s occurs prior to
    cognitive decline. An accurate measurement or indicator of
    increased amyloid deposits in the brain could possibly provide an
    earlier diagnosis compared to current methods of cognitive testing,
    and also possibly indicate the progression or severity of the
    disease. Two studies reported at AAIC 2011 investigated new methods
    for possible use in early detection of Alzheimer’s, tracking
    progression of the disease, identifying participants for research
    trials and measuring the impact of therapies. One study uses blood
    measurements for estimating the amount of a toxic substance known
    as beta amyloid deposited in the brain. The other study suggests
    that abnormal levels of certain proteins in cerebrospinal fluid
    (including beta amyloid) in people with mild cognitive impairment
    may indicate who will develop Alzheimer’s within the next 10
  • A small pilot study presented at AAIC 2011, researchers
    explored whether characteristics of blood vessels in the back of
    the eye might serve as possible biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.
    The researchers found that the width of certain blood vessels in
    the back of the eye were significantly different for people with
    Alzheimer’s compared with healthy people, and that this correlated
    with brain imaging that is indicative of Alzheimer’s. While most
    Alzheimer’s-related pathology occurs in the brain, the disease has
    also been reported to create changes in the eye, which is closely
    connected to the brain and more easily accessible for examination
    in a doctor’s office. The study is very preliminary, but
  • Results of a survey of people in France, Germany, Poland, Spain
    and the U.S. reported that while people fear Alzheimer’s second
    only to cancer, the overwhelming majority say they would go to the
    doctor if they saw symptoms of memory loss and confusion. The poll
    was supported by a grant to Alzheimer Europe from Bayer, and was
    conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. However, many of
    the respondents believe there is now an effective medical treatment
    to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s; and many also said there is
    a reliable test currently available to determine if a person is in
    the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Neither of these statements is
    true. The scientists say better public education about Alzheimer’s
    is needed.

About AAIC

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the
world’s largest conference of its kind, bringing together
researchers from around the world to report and discuss
groundbreaking research and information on the cause, diagnosis,
treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and related
disorders.  As a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s
research program, AAIC serves as a catalyst for generating new
knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research

About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health
organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission
is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of
research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected,
and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain
health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Visit href=""> or call


Alzheimer’s Association media line: +1-312-335-4078, media at, AAIC 2011 press room, July 16-21: +33(0)1-57-25-20-35

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