Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Alzheimer's Fight

"I'm not going down without a fight," said Jackson, who often pleads for more money for research and treatment. "It's time to find, if not a cure, at least better medicine so people will live through this better." - Washington Post, Man With Alzheimer's Fights 'Family Disease': 5th-Generation Patient Copes With Early Onset, May 14, 2008.

Yesterday’s Washington Post highlighted the strife of Chuck Jackson, a man diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 50 and dedicating his life to advocating for research and treatment for the disease. The article notes that 5 million Americans live with this disease, but through our own research of this disease for the FasterCuresPhilanthropy Advisory Service program, we know that the Alzheimer’s Association projects this number to alarmingly double (and even triple) by 2050. This disease was the 7th leading cause of death in 2004 and results in $100 - $180 billion of economic costs for our nation each year.

Because there are so many unanswered questions about Alzheimer’s disease, there are even more areas of research to explore for answers and solutions, including:
  • Etiology or cause of the disease, specifically with respect to the protein plaques and tangles in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients;
  • Risk factors associated with patient populations, such as the genetic predisposition that Chuck and his family have towards this disease; and
  • Biomarkers to better diagnose and monitor the progression of the disease.
Right now the only accurate diagnosis method is via brain autopsy.

Going beyond the current drugs available, there is research ongoing about treatement that target the protein plaques and tangles that are believed to be the fundamental cause of the disease, as well as how to best deliver care to patients suffering from this disease. Through the Philanthropy Advisory Service FasterCures hopes to help philanthropists identify high impact areas for Alzheimer’s disease research and channel nonprofit research funding to those areas. We also know that research and treatment of this disease could be tremendously helped through the development of a centralized map of research activities across sectors in order to identify priority areas for development. Other strategies include educating patients to build awareness of the importance of participating in clinical trials and engaging regulators about how to accelerate the approval of Alzheimer’s disease therapies.

We're glad that U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging convened yesterday's hearing on Alzheimer's disease. We join the rest of the nation in anxiously awaiting the report of the Alzheimer's Study Group. We need a national strategy to accelerate research into new Alzheimer's treatments. We owe it to Mr. Jackson and to the more than 5 million people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.
Melissa Stevens, FasterCures Director of Special Projects

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