LOS ANGELES — The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) will move dementia science forward with a record number of abstracts this year.
Roughly 3,000 scientific presentations will be featured at the meeting here from July 14 to 18, with about 6,000 people from more than 70 countries expected to attend, said Rebecca Edelmayer, PhD, Director of Scientific Engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“We’re convening scientists from all across the ecosystem,” Edelmayer told MedPage Today. “They’re coming in from academia, government, industry, and health care.”
Presentations will focus on both basic science and emerging research, she added: “We will see some on innovative practice techniques, clinical trials, biomarker advances, technology, and late-breaking developing topics.”
“We’re seeing a lot of conversations between the next-generation investigators and people who’ve been working in the field for many years,” Edelmayer noted. “We’re seeing this also across the care research community as well. They’re sharing discoveries that hopefully will lead to new methods of prevention and treatment and improve diagnosis and care for people living with Alzheimer’s.”
Over the years, ideas about Alzheimer’s disease have shifted considerably and new research reflects that, noted Zaven Khachaturian, PhD, editor-in-chief of Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
“One idea is that the disease doesn’t start at the point where the clinical features start; it starts many, many years before,” Khachaturian told MedPage Today. “That’s a very important conceptual change. Quite a few papers now are driven by the realization that we need to be able to identify the disease in early stages.”
Earlier models about the disease have proven to be inadequate for therapy development, he observed. “Although amyloid and tau are part of the disease, they may not be crucial for the development of the clinical features, on the basis that trials so far have not worked,” he said. “We may be very successful in eliminating these abnormal proteins. The real crux of the matter is whether we can eliminate the dementia.”
“The idea that we are going to find a single factor or molecule that will cure or treat Alzheimer’s doesn’t seem to be in the cards, simply because we need to learn that the data is complex,” Khachaturian added. “The complexity does not result from a single factor, but the combination or the coincidence of complex interactions between various components. The field hasn’t come to grips with that.”
Throughout AAIC 2019, new data about drugs in the dementia pipeline — including the amyloid targeting drug BAN2401 and the BACE1 inhibitor elenbecestat — as well as developing research about gingipain inhibitors, intranasal insulin, ketogenesis approaches, and other investigational therapies will be featured in poster and oral presentations.
Nine plenary sessions will be presented throughout the week, with themes ranging from sleep and cognition to the cellular phase of Alzheimer’s disease to precision medicine. And daily symposium sessions will cover topics like disparities in care, markers of inflammation, rare genetic variants, and delirium in dementia.
Missing from AAIC will be data about the failed 3,000-person phase III aducanumab trials that ended earlier this year. Biogen and Eisai had planned to present information about the anti-amyloid drug at the meeting, but announced several weeks ago that details aren’t ready to be shared with the public.
But despite the aducanumab setback — and the failure of two pivotal trials of the BACE1 inhibitor umibecestat this week — the overall outlook is positive, Edelmayer observed.
“We have seen an unprecedented increase in the amount of funding that is now going into Alzheimer’s and related dementia science, not only through our national institutions like the NIH but also from the Alzheimer’s Association,” she pointed out.
This year, National Institutes of Health funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia-related research reached a record $2.4 billion. “With that increased funding, we will expect to see faster and more proportional progress in finding treatments, and better ways to detect and diagnose the disease in the future,” Edelmayer said.
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