Earlier this month in Washington, D.C., 95 scientists from 23 companies, 19 academic institutions and two regulatory agencies met with funders, advocates and patients and caregivers. The buzz was all about learning from the mistakes and setbacks of drug development in Alzheimer’s disease and getting a collective act together while the FTD field is still young. On what did the group agree? Basic science and longitudinal human studies are advancing apace, but what the fields needs most urgently now to launch more and good trials is a toolbox of biomarkers to subtype FTD disorders and measure target engagement. For their part, the regulators want creative, rigorous science that tries to couple biomarker change to meaningful outcomes, but assured the scientists that no disease is too rare for them to be keenly interested and approve drugs for it. Read Gabrielle Strobel’s series.
Did you know the U.S. National Alzheimer’s Project Act covers Lewy body, frontotemporal, vascular, and mixed dementias, as well? It does, and in March, scientists gathered at the National Institutes of Health to powwow about where we are with these disorders and how best to target research dollars to them. Based on this meeting, research leaders articulated funding priorities for each of these diseases, which will inform both the next bypass budget, and, hopefully, the next Congressional funding allocation for research on these less-studied dementing illnesses.
The 14th International Athens/Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer Therapy was held March 9 to 12 in Athens, Greece. Researchers met to discuss developments in basic and clinical research, including new approaches to study Aβ oligomers and results of a clinical trial to evaluate a dietary approach to treat early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Off-target troubles aside, tau tracers took the cake at the 10th Human Amyloid Imaging conference, held January 13-15 in Miami Beach, Florida. Even as researchers continue to sort out the vagaries of working with investigational tracers, they have started delving into deeper questions than whether neurofibrillary tangles are merely present in the brain. Scientists are asking how patterns of tau deposition relate to Aβ, neurodegeneration, and connectivity in Alzheimer’s disease. Preliminary cross-sectional data hint at a considerable lag between Aβ and tau accumulation in familial AD. New ligands debuted at HAI this year, but whether they will better detect tau deposits than the current batch remains to be seen. Leaders in the field still don’t know how well tau PET will work in other forms of dementia, such as FTD, PSP, and CBD.