Alzheimer’s disease is the dark cloud on the horizon and it has no silver lining. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and no way of preventing it. Well, that’s true for now and it may not always be so.  Twenty-five years ago there were no cures for AIDS, still are no cures, but people with AIDS can lead long and productive lives with the aid of current medical therapies. Perhaps Alzheimer’s disease will suffer a similar fate and we will either find a cure or a way to reduce it’s effects so that I can still write this column and make films.

Cheshire Cat

Some new insights are coming along for treating Alzheimer’s disease by looking at gene mutations or simply patterns of genes. For example, some forms of lung cancer will respond to a specific drug if the patient has a particular mutation (Gardner). Also, a screening test called Oncotype Dx can help decide against radiation therapy in addition to surgery for women diagnosed with a form of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (Park). This also carries over into Alzheimer’s disease. Recent work appears to show that an abnormal protein, beta amyloid, could be a marker for future development of Alzheimer’s disease (Lazar)

Citing this work, Sperling, Jack & Aisen content that we need to learn how to identify people before the onset of symptoms and begin treatments. They wish to study the effect of drugs that lower this particular protein in people with the abnormality to see if Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented. Further, they assert that studying people with Alzheimer’s disease is too late to really do any good. They state, “Converging evidence suggests that the pathophysiological process of AD begins many years before the onset of dementia. So why do we keep testing drugs aimed at the initial stages of the disease process in patients at the end-stage of the illness?”

It’s a problem that needs to be treated before it appears. An interesting problem. Sort of like Schrödinger’s cat (ödinger’s_cat).



Gardner, A. Gene mutation improves response to lung cancer, US News, 8-19-2009.

Lazar, K. Alzheimer’s study probes drug to cut brain protein, Austin American Statesman, 12-2-2011, p. A25.

Park, A. Decoding breast cancer, Time, 12-19-2011, p. 26.

Sperling, RA, Jack, CR & Aisen, PS. Testing the Right Target and Right Drug at the Right Stage, Science Translational Medicine, 2011, 3(111), p. 111cm33.

Image: The cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland drawn by John Tenniel (1820-1914) in the 1866 edition. In the public domain.