October 14, 2004

Karen Kreeger
(215) 349-5658


Penn To Participate in National Alzheimer’s Disease Research Initiative
Brain Imaging Data to be Combined With Genetic and Biomarker Information
to Ultimately Streamline Clinical Trials

(Philadelphia, PA) -The clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) remains imprecise, especially in its initial stages, with a definitive diagnosis requiring an autopsy. While research conducted in the past 10 years has led to dramatic advances in understanding AD (and thereby accelerating drug discovery efforts), increasing evidence suggests that potential AD therapies are likely to be most effective early in the course of the disease. To that end, reliable diagnostic tests for the early detection of AD are needed to increase the likelihood of arresting memory impairments and other cognitive deficits, says John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director of the Institute on Aging, and Co-director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research and the Marian S. Ware Alzheimer Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Earlier this week, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) — in conjunction with other Federal agencies, private companies, and organizations — launched a $60 million, five-year public-private partnership, the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Its purpose is to test whether serial magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, other biological markers, and clinical and neuropsychological assessment can be combined to measure the progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early Alzheimer's disease.

The study could help researchers and clinicians develop new treatments and monitor their effectiveness, as well as lessen the time and cost of clinical trials. The project is the most comprehensive effort to date to find neuroimaging and other biomarkers for the cognitive changes associated with MCI and AD.

Penn Biomarker Core
Within the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, the Penn Biomarker Core - led by Trojanowski - will collect biological samples from normal individuals and AD patients followed in the study in order to develop diagnostic laboratory tests for the early diagnosis of AD. The identification of informative AD biomarkers (chemicals and other biological substances) and the development of laboratory tests to measure these biomarkers in blood, urine, or cerebrospinal fluid could substantially improve methods for the early diagnosis of AD, in concert with imaging data. In addition to Trojanowski, Leslie M. Shaw, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Amin A. Nanji, MD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, are co-investigators in the Penn Biomarker Core. Christopher Clark, MD, Director, Memory Disorders Clinic, will lead recruitment of patients for the ADNI at the Penn site.

Study Recruitment to Begin Spring 2005
The study will take place at approximately 50 sites across the U.S. and Canada. In April 2005, investigators will begin recruiting about 800 adults, ages 55 to 90, to participate in the research - approximately 200 cognitively normal older individuals to be followed for three years, 400 people with MCI to be followed for three years, and 200 people with early AD to be followed for two years.

For more information those interested in the study can contact the NIA's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at 1-800-438-4380.


PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (created in 1993 as the nation’s first integrated academic health system).

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

This release is available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/oct04/ADbiomarker.htm