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Spring 2017 E-Newsletter

Spring 2017 UCLA Alzheimer's Research Center Newsletter

| Dear Doc | Neuropsychology Clinic | New Addition to the Easton Center |
| Clinical Trials | Upcoming Events |

The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA has very active teams working on basic research, drug discovery, biomarkers for early diagnosis and clinical activity including clinical trials, cognitive testing and patient care. This edition of our newsletter focuses on our clinical programs. [PDF Version]

Dear Doc...
A Discussion with Dr. Verna Porter About Medications.

Dr. Verna Porter as the new Clinical Program Director

Photo: Verna Porter, MD, FANA
Interviewed By: Monica Moore, MS

Though we currently have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), two classes of drugs are available that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors
This group of medications, consisting of donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne), works by increasing the level of a certain chemical messenger in the brain. Clinical studies have confirmed that treatment with these agents results in better sustained cognitive function, relative to placebo. Among these agents, donepezil has been approved by the FDA in mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer’s disease. Rivastigmine and galantamine are approved in mild and moderate AD. Rivastigmine is available in a transdermal patch.

Memantine (Namenda)
Though the exact way by which memantine exerts its effect in AD is not entirely clear, it has been shown that persons with AD, particularly those in moderate to severe stages of the illness, do better in regards to tests of thinking and in overall function over time than those not treated with the drug. Memantine is often used in combination with cholinesterase inhibitors, which may have added benefit.

I met with Dr. Verna Porter to discuss her thoughts on the current medications available as well as non-pharmacological treatments. Our discussion is below:

1. What are your thoughts on the current FDA approved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease?
The medications that are available right now are symptomatic medications. They have been shown to be effective in slowing the rate of progression of the disease with statistical significance in terms of being able to slow the disease, promote independence, and delay time to placement in nursing homes by using these medications vs. not using them. We believe that they help promote quality of life in terms of preserving memory longer over a longer period of time, preserving functional abilities in terms of instrumental and basic activities of daily living, and sometimes the medications help to stabilize behaviors. Some behavioral aspects of the disease include changes in mood or personality- so for all of these reasons we advocate the use of these drugs and we do believe that they have efficacy as demonstrated in controlled clinical trials.

Beyond that, at UCLA, since we are a research institute, we are looking at clinical trials and often times I advocate for my patients to at least consider the possibility of including themselves in a clinical trial which in principal could gain them access to additional investigational drugs. We are hopeful that some of these newer drugs may be disease modifying. Of course, in clinical trials we are trying to understand the medications and cannot guarantee that they would work in a certain way, but that is part of the research process. The notion behind these newer drugs that we are trying to develop is that they may have some ability to stop, fix or correct the disease. How effective they will be will be determined in the course of the research process.

2. Can you share your thoughts on non-pharmacological treatments?
Absolutely. I think the two main areas we focus on are diet and nutrition and exercise. In addition, we will talk about relaxation, stress reduction, the importance of adequate sleep, and controlling any other issues or concerns that may be relevant to promoting good cognition. So, we always try to cover information about how to promote healthy lifestyle choices, habits and routines that can positively affect memory.

3. What about more alternative therapies?
We also talk about dietary food supplements, we talk about herbal supplements and we talk about things like yoga, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques. We do try to encompass alternative therapies into our clinical practices. When it comes to alternative therapies, as well as non-pharmacological treatments, the discussion is a dialogue to see what the patient is willing to try and what will work best for the individual. I also suggest for patients to integrate in with the Dementia Care Program, through the Geriatrics department, which is run by nurse practitioners who can help with these lifestyles modifying factors and by keeping patients informed about different programs that might be available in the community to promote these additional approaches.

The UCLA Neurology Dementia and Memory Disorders Clinic is a component of Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA (Easton Center) specializes in the evaluation and diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), early Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and related disorders. An early diagnosis enables patients to take advantage of the most effective therapies and to maintain the highest level of functioning for the longest period of time. Callers can speak directly with the triage coordinator who will collect relevant medical information and, with input from expert clinicians, schedule patients or refer to the most appropriate UCLA clinic. For appointments or questions, please contact Barbara Dwyer at (310) 794-6039.

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Neuropsychology Clinic of the Department of Neurology

Dr. Ellen Woo, Neuropsychology

Photo and written By: Ellen Woo, PhD

Our doctors in the Neuropsychology Clinic of the Department of Neurology specialize in the assessment and diagnosis of neurological conditions, including dementia. Dementia is by definition a disorder of cognition (thinking skills), and only a neuropsychological evaluation can directly and comprehensively evaluate your cognition. A neuropsychological evaluation involves testing that is sensitive to problems in brain functioning. Unlike CT or MRI scans, which show what the structure of the brain looks like, neuropsychological testing examines how well the brain is working when it performs certain functions, such as remembering past events. The tests assess multiple areas of thinking, such as intellectual ability, attention, memory, reasoning, problem solving, visual-spatial functions, language, sensory-perceptual functions, motor skills, mood, and personality functioning. Many people believe they have problems with memory when they actually have difficulty with other areas of cognition, such as focusing their attention. There can be multiple causes to the same cognitive symptoms, and a neuropsychological evaluation is useful in the determination of these causes.

The evaluation is not invasive, typically involves paper-and pencil testing, and is conducted by a clinical neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist specializing in the area of brain-behavior relationships. Although a neuropsychologist has a doctoral degree in psychology, he or she does not just focus on emotional or psychological problems. Neuropsychologists have additional training in the specialty field of clinical neuropsychology and have expertise in brain anatomy, brain function, and brain injury or disease. The neuropsychologist also has specialty training in administering and interpreting the specific kinds of tests included in your evaluation.

Some of the goals of the evaluation are to define your strengths and weaknesses in regard to your thinking skills, form any cognitive and/or psychological diagnoses, find possible problems with brain functioning, and track any changes in cognitive functioning over time. Therefore, neuropsychologists can make relevant recommendations to your healthcare provider that can be important for your treatment planning. In addition, the neuropsychologist can make recommendations to you about how to compensate for your weaknesses in everyday life using your strengths.

If you believe you have problems with your cognition and would like an appointment in the Neuropsychology Clinic in the Department of Neurology, please call the Clinic Call Center at (310) 794-1195.

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New Addition to the Easton Center
Please join us in welcoming a new member to the Easton Center.

Andrea Silva, MA Photo: Andrea Silva, M.A.

Andrea Silva has a background in clinical and non-clinical research. She worked at the NIH, NIMH, FDA, DEA and several other federal organizations. Throughout her career, Andrea has been a managing editor and collaborated with publishing annual scientific research proceedings. She has coordinated research forums, symposiums, and clinical research trainings. She has been part of several research committees throughout the country and worked with international committee members. Also, she was an advocate and participated in committees’ meetings on Capitol Hill. She has collaborated with research, training and education staff in the selection of research awards to medical students. Andrea has experience in research funding and grant management. She has worked in hospitals in the areas of neurology, psychology, psychiatry, trauma and with patients of all ages. Andrea is also very involved with community work, being a board member, committee member and being on the leadership council for several nonprofit organizations. We welcome Andrea to the Easton Center and Neuropsychology.

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Clinical Research Opportunities

If you would like to advance Alzheimer's disease research, please consider participating at the Easton Center. Below are the current recruiting trials. For a complete list of enrolling studies, visit our website at www.eastonad.ucla.edu.

ENGAGE Study:

The ENGAGE study is a Phase III clinical trial sponsored by Biogen of the investigational drug aducadumab. Individuals aged 50-85 who are diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment may be eligible to participate in this trial. The goal of the study is to assess whether aducanumab, a drug that targets brain amyloid, can reduce brain amyloid levels and slow memory loss associated with amyloid build up. Participants will be randomized to receive active drug or placebo (inactive substance) via monthly infusions. The study lasts approximately 2 years, which includes an 8-week screening period and 4.5 month follow up period once the investigational drug/placebo phase is completed. To learn more, please call (310) 794-6191 or visit www.eastonad.ucla.edu.


The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease (A4) Study:

The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease (A4) Study is a clinical study for older individuals ages 65-85 who have normal thinking and memory function but who may be at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) memory loss sometime in the future. This study is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, Eli Lilly, and the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute. The purpose of the A4 study is to test whether a new investigational treatment can slow the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease by decreasing amyloid levels in the brain. The A4 Study lasts for three years, and participants will be assigned at random to receive either the investigational drug or a placebo (inactive substance) via monthly infusions and will be regularly monitored over that period.

You may be eligible to join the A4 Study if you:

  • Are age 65 to 85 years
  • Have normal thinking and memory abilities
  • Have a study partner (someone who has weekly contact with you and is willing to answer questions once a year).

If you are interested in participating, please call (310) 794-6191 or visit www.eastonad.ucla.edu.


The CREAD Study: A Study of Crenezumab Versus Placebo to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety in Participants with Prodromal to Mild Alzheimer’s Disease (AD):

The CREAD study is a Phase III clinical trial sponsored by Genentech/F. Hoffman-La Roche of the investigational drug, crenezumab, which is an anti-amyloid antibody. The goal of the study is to test whether monthly infusions of crenezumab, will slow down disease progression and memory loss by reducing brain amyloid levels. Participants will have a 50% chance of receiving active study drug versus placebo (an inactive substance). The study lasts approximately 2 years, with 26 infusion visits and the possibility of an open label extension upon completion. Individuals ages 50-85 with a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (prodromal Alzheimer’s disease) and mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease may be eligible to participate. To learn more, please call (310) 794-6191 or visit www.eastonad.ucla.edu.


Curcumin and Yoga Therapy for Those at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease:

Physical exercise has proven to improve memory including in the elderly. Drugs developed to stop the underlying disease processes that cause Alzheimer's disease may not improve memory on their own without efforts to stimulate brain function. One purpose of the study is to test the clinical benefits of curcumin, a safe and effective compound isolated from the turmeric root (a component of Indian curry spices), which has been found to inhibit several potential disease pathways in Alzheimer's disease. Another purpose of this study is to determine how the addition of a physical exercise program in individuals with early memory problems may affect memory function or brain imaging and blood-based markers associated with Alzheimer's disease. To learn more, please call Mychica at (310) 478-3711 Ext. 42171 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (PI: Sally Frautschy, Ph.D.; Location: VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center, CA.)


Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease Phenotypes: Neuropsychology and Neural Networks:

The Behavioral Neurology program is conducting an NIH-funded study to try to understand and clarify why some individuals develop Alzheimer’s disease at a young age. By understanding the reasons for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the investigators hope to shed light on what happens in Alzheimer’s disease at all ages. Participants will undergo neurological tasks, neuropsychological assessments, and a special MRI of structural and functional brain networks. The study is approximately 1 year long, with 3 visits within the first month and 2 visits at the 1-year follow up. Study participation is open to all patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but especially those diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (diagnosed before age 65). To learn more, please visit https://behavioral.neurology.ucla.edu/research.

If interested, please call Randy Desarzant at (310) 478-3711 Ext. 43621 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (PI: Mario Mendez, MD, Ph.D; Location: 300 Medical Plaza, B-Level Neurology Clinic).

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Alzheimer's Disease Basics
Date: Thursday, June 15th, 2017
Time: 2:00 P.M. - 3:30 P.M.
Location: Atria Tarzana Independent Living/Assisted Living
5325 Etiwanda Avenue, Tarzana, CA 91356

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia, currently affecting 5.3 million Americans. Sarah Kremen, M.D., Clinical Physician of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA will talk about who is most affected by Alzheimer’s as well as the latest treatments and medical options. RSVP: (800) 516-5323.

Update on Alzheimer's Disease Research
Date: Wednesday, June 26th, 2017
Time: 3:00 P.M. - 4:30 P.M.
Location: Belmont Village Encino
15451 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Gal Bitan, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Residence of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA will present "Update on Alzheimer's Disease Research.” Dr. Bitan will speak about the research he is conducting here at UCLA to combat Alzheimer’s disease.

Update on Research and Clinical Trials
Date: Thursday, June 27th, 2017
Time: 6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.
Location: Silverado Beverly Place
330 N. Hayworth Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Monica Moore, M.S.G. will address the latest research on Alzheimer’s disease and the clinical trials that are currently taking place at the Easton Center.

For information on other upcoming lectures and events, please visit the Easton Center Community Calendar.


Our mailing address is:
Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA
710 Westwood Plaza, Room C-224
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1769
| http://www.eastonad.ucla.edu | Phone Number: (310) 794-3665 / Appointments: (310) 794-6039 |
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Copyright © 2017. Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA. All rights reserved.

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