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Alzheimer's Scan Might Help Spot Disease
Date:1/21/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- An advisory panel's recommendation that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve a new chemical that can highlight the telltale signs of Alzheimer's in brain scans may one day help doctors diagnose the neurodegenerative disease, experts said Friday.

On Thursday, the panel voted 16 to 0 to recommend approval of the imaging agent, known as Amyvid, with one critical caveat: Manufacturer Eli Lilly and Co. must demonstrate that standards for interpreting brain scans that show amyloid plaques illuminated by Amyvid can be made consistent enough to routinely guarantee an accurate diagnosis.

Amyvid (florbetapir) is injected into patients who then undergo a PET scan; a negative result can help rule out Alzheimer's, according to Lilly.

Experts agreed that the test could become a critical part of spotting Alzheimer's before symptoms have taken hold, but they noted that the clinical reality of that is far from imminent.

"It may well be that amyloid imaging will join colonoscopy, mammography, etc. as mid-life surveillance tests, and that anti-amyloid interventions are most effective in the pre-symptomatic stages of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Sam Gandy, the Mount Sinai Chair in Alzheimer's Disease Research in New York City. However, this possibility is years away, he added.

The value for research is clear, Gandy said. "Either a spinal fluid amyloid test or an amyloid scan will help weed out non-Alzheimer's dementias in clinical trials of anti-amyloid agents. The clinical value in the short-term is less obvious."

Current medications are most effective in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and amyloid scans might identify those patients for doctors who don't have access to neuropsychological testing, Gandy said.

"A confirmed diagnosis would enable planning for the future while patients are at an early enough stage to stil
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