Theres currently no cure for Alzheimers Disease, but medical breakthroughs mean there is new hope for the future.

The Alzheimers Association estimates more than 150 thousand Arizonans are living with Alzheimers a number which is growing quickly.

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We lead the nation in the number of new cases of Alzheimers, said Director of the Banner Alzheimers Institute (BAI) in Tucson Dr. Allan Anderson. He works with Alzheimers patients and their families.

Dr. Anderson recognizes Arizonas alarming trend, but also the research being done at places like BAI Tucson and Phoenix to hopefully change it.

He says new treatments using

monoclonal antibodies

are now attacking whats believed to be the *root of the disease, not just what causes the symptoms.

Monoclonal antibodies get into the blood, Dr. Anderson explained. Theyre done by an infusion. Maybe in the future by an injection They get up to the brain. And these are molecules that will attach themselves to a Beta-Amyloid protein. That is one of the abnormal proteins of Alzheimers disease. And its thought by many to be the start of the process. In fact, there are studies showing that this Beta-Amyloid can start 15 to 20 years before a person ever has symptoms.”

So that bad protein is building up in the body, in the brain,” he continued. “And these medications that are coming out will help that be pulled out of the brain through our own immune systems.

Dr. Anderson says previous attempts to treat Alzheimers have been anti-inflammatory focused or have attacked a different abnormal protein, with largely ineffective results.

Two promising monoclonal antibody treatments, Aducanumab and Lecanemab, received FDA approval in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Another, Donanemab, could gain that approval come early 2024.

Dr. Anderson says theres also been progress in researching bio-markers in the blood or spinal fluid.

He tells KGUN 9 in the near future, this could mean identifying earlier and earlier cases when that load, the amount of that protein in the brain, is more manageable.

This year also brought the first FDA-approved drug to reduce agitation in dementia patients: Brexpiprazole.

All of this science seems to be coming together in a very exciting way and giving promise and hope that we might actually achieve this goal of not losing another generation to this disease, Dr. Anderson told KGUN 9.

“The future is now,” he affirmed.

Even if these medical breakthroughs help, theres still a need for thousands of volunteers for clinical trials.

Theres a need for donations as well. The Alzheimers Association reached $100 million this year in research spending.

Weve been working at this for so long. Its nice to see some of the progress being made now, said Southern Arizona Community Executive Morgen Hartford with the Alzheimers Association.

He says weve come a long way in how we talk about Alzheimers and dementia.

Vascular dementia, specifically, that type of dementia runs in my family, Hartford explained. And we didnt talk about it. We had lots of euphemisms for talking about some of my grandfathers sisters. But never a way to talk about it directly It deserves the attention.”

November is Alzheimers Awareness Month.

If youve seen the impact that Alzheimers has on a person, theres no way not to take action on this,” Hartford reminded.

Arizonas state government also took action, with roughly $5.8 million going to Alzheimers research and programs in the 2024 budget. The Alzheimers Association calls this figure unprecedented.